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Please RSVP: If Mobile Phones Killed the Telecentre, What is Next for Public Internet Access?

By Wayan Vota on May 5, 2014

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IREX Tech Deep Dive – RSVP Now

Back at the dawn of the digital divide conversation, leading organizations invested in telecentres — public spaces where people could access computers and learn about the Internet. Fast forward to today, where billions have a personal Internet in their pocket and use Facebook daily, and there is a real question if we still need public access Internet services in the age of the mobile phone.

Public Access ReportThe conclusion of TASCHA’s report on “Why public access ICTs matter” is that we do, in fact, still need public access venues for the millions of people around the world who lack private access to the Internet’s ever-increasing cornucopia of vital information and services.

For many, digital inclusion is found at their local public access ICT venue — a school, a library, a cybercafé, or yes, a telecentre.

But that’s today’s model of public access, an environment of ever increasing budgetary pressures, rapid advances in technology, and changes in human and societal interactions with technology. We should be asking:

  • What will tomorrow’s public access venue look like? Or will we even need one?
  • Where is the end game for all digital divides? Is it a library or cybercafé? Would government even be involved?
  • Could we get beyond access with Google Glasses for all, connected to free Internet by wandering balloons and drones with lasers?
  • Or is digital inclusion an illusion, and Internet access a human right we must always fight for?

Please RSVP now to join us in a Deep Dive on the state of digital inclusion and what it might take us to get beyond access. To help us navigate where we are headed, we’ll have five thought leaders sharing their knowledge and opinions:

  1. Miguel Raimilla, Executive Director, Telecentre.org
  2. Sonia Jorge, Executive Director, Alliance for Affordable Internet
  3. Michael Trucano, Senior ICT and Education Policy Specialist, World Bank
  4. Johnathan Donner, Technology for Emerging Markets, Microsoft Research
  5. Mark Surman, Executive Director, Mozilla Foundation
  6. Chris Coward, Director, Technology & Social Change Group, University of Washington

Please RSVP now to join this active, practical event. We’ll have an overview of the state of public access and its usage across schools, libraries, cybercafes, and telecentres, a lively brainstorming on what the future of access might look like, and small teams creating frameworks for how to get us from the present to the future.

Please RSVP now to go from talk to action in just one morning! Note that this event is in-person only, and RSVP is required to attend.RSVP-Now-Button

The Future of Public Access
IREX Tech Deep Dive
8:30 am -12:30pm
Thursday, May 22nd
Washington, DC, 20005

We will have hot coffee and a catered breakfast for a morning rush, but seating is limited – RSVP now, before its too late.

Filed Under: Thought Leadership
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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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5 Comments to “Please RSVP: If Mobile Phones Killed the Telecentre, What is Next for Public Internet Access?”

  1. This was also the conference theme of IDIA – http://developmentinformatics.org/conferences/2013/index.html

    Telecentres are not dead. They are very active in e.g. Thailand.

    • Wayan Vota says:

      Hence the “if” in the title. On the same note, while you and I may believe Telecentres are alive and well, there is much ongoing debate on their near and long-term future, and what role, if any, government and donors should play.

  2. Roger Harris says:

    Despite the triumphalism of the mobile enthusiasts, the death of telecentres seems somewhat exaggerated. The last statistic I saw suggested there are more than half a million of them worldwide, with the number growing. Even in Europe, where internet access is much less of a problem than in the developing world, telecentres are thriving. Many countries are proceeding vigorously with telecentre programmes, pretty much ignoring the ‘experts’ who claim their time is past. At the same time mobile-based applications that show considerable promise are emerging but they are nowhere near ubiquitous. These two innovations can complement each other; each having different characteristics that lend themselves to different applications. The TASCHA report does a good job of exposing the research community and other observers to the ground realities that are well known by the folks working with telecentres. Let’s hope they take notice. The smart thing now is to explore further how mobiles and other emerging technologies can be used jointly with telecentres instead of engaging in the sterile debate around mobile-vs-telecentre. See http://www.ebario.org/ for an example.

  3. Telecentre Europe is hosting a debate on the future of telecentres in our continent. We speak here about “e-inclusion”, meant as both digital inclusion and the socio-economic inclusion derived from a broader participation in the Information Society and the Knowledge Economy. A survey we conducted last year for the European Commission (with TASCHA help) led us to estimate that there might be around 250,000 e-inclusion intermediaries (i.e. telecentres, public libraries, etc) in the European Union – one every 2,000 inhabitants! The role of these intermediaries is not anymore centred in providing access but guidance, training, networking, job opportunities… in other words, digital empowerment of citizens and local communities. Building over this vision, we envisage a long life to telecentres!

  4. Sara Vannini says:

    I hope this report on the integration of mobiles and telecentres can feed the dialogue: http://seedlearn.org/telecentres-and-mobile-technologies-global-pilot-study/