For those of you who don't know me, I (Steve Song) work for a project at
the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa.  The project is
called the Unganisha Project and its raison d'Ítre is to improve
connectivity for IDRC funded researchers around the world.  Africa is a
particular focus.  The project is not dissimilar to Jeff Cochrane's
AfricaLink programme.

A particular challenge for the project is to find a practical, re-usable
mechanism for providing connectivity support to researchers.   To support
researchers we decided that we have to satisfy a number of conditions:

1)      The support must be local.
For reasons which are almost too obvious to mention, there is no mileage in
trying to provided connectivity support remotely or through periodic
visits.  By investing in local support we get the double bonus of assisting
the researcher and of investing in local ICT infrastructure (we are not
talking huge sums of course but it is the principle which is at issue).

2)      The support must be accountable to the researchers.
It is very important to us that researchers get the kind of support that
they need and the only way to ensure this is to make the people providing
support accountable to them.

3)      The administrative burden on all parties must be light.
Both receiving and providing technical support can rapidly become
impractical and untenable if each technical support call or visit requires
more paperwork than technical support.  We want accountability but not at
the expense of practicality.

The model that we have come up with to satisfy the above is that of funding
local HelpDesks in countries where ICT support is required by researchers.
 AfricaLink pioneered the concept of HelpDesks funding several regional
HelpDesks throughout Africa.  This is an attempt to take the HelpDesk
concept even further and turn it into a generic model that any funding
agency can use or buy into to provide ICT support to their constituencies.

We hope that this HelpDesk model will provide a concrete mechnism for
consolidating support requirements and expectations between donors and ICT
support bodies (it is expected that almost any person or institution could
take on the role of a HelpDesk provided they have the appropriate skills
and resources).

In my next message, I will post the HelpDesk contract model.  I will also
list the countries in which the IDRC will be looking for HelpDesk partners.
 I look forward to your feedback, commentary, and any interest any of you
may have in participating in a HelpDesk.

Regards.... Steve Song

Steve Song <[log in to unmask]>
Unganisha (Connectivity) Project <>
International Development Research Centre
P.O. Box 8500, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1G 3H9
Tel. +1 613 236 6163 x2268  Fax +1 613 567 7748