Nice to see some fresh debate on this list again.
I agree with Katherine Morrow (previous message forwarded here) that Heeks
provides us with a good reality check. Regardless of the weight of
evidence (or lack) in Heeks paper, we need this sort of succinct reality
check. Perhaps this may stimulate decision-makers and policy-makers in
the donor community to apply some funding for evaluation studies.
Personally, I would love to have a go at the ITU driven telecentres :-)
Jeff, your point about the thousands of communication shops in Ghana and
elsewhere on the continent is a good one. But how many decision-makers
and policy-makers in donor agencies have ever actually seen one of these
or used one of these? Most probably don't even know they exist, hence the
$250,000 plus spent on a single "Multi-purpose Community Telecentre."
Richard Heeks point:
"The poor lack, and need, information of relevance to their local context.
This may come more from interaction between communities and community
members rather than from the typical ICT-based pattern of data transfer
from North to South. Based on both overt and social resourcing, such new
information will best be delivered to the poor by organic information
systems that arise from within their community. Failing that, because of
access issues, information may be better delivered by literate or
intermediate technologies - such as telephones - than by new ICTs. Where
ICTs are used, they should provide a supplement, not substitute, to
existing information systems."
This point speaks directly to the phenomenon of the village communication
ship with the phone and perhaps a fax (and in a smaller number of cases (
but certainly growing), walk in access to email/web).
What I have trouble understanding is why the donors seem reluctant to add
value to an existing ICT phenomenon (communication shops), and instead
desire to plant flags on unsustainable ICT models dropped in from North
American or European contexts.
I and a number of others have been promoting the idea of micro-credit
schemes to assist existing communication shop owners and to help create
new communication shops in rural areas - managed by local entrepreneurs.
Thus far, the only people listening to me and taking this seriously are
private sector telecom operators and equipment vendors.
The donor community still does not seem to recognize communication shops -
or does not want to recognize them because there is no where to plant a
Maybe it is a good thing that they don't and that this phenomenon remains
a home-grown private sector phenonmenon. Maybe I should shut up? :-)