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Flavor of the month of OCTOBER- Telecentres for Emergency/Disaster Coordination

Senthil Kumaran, Director for Informatics Division ,M S Swaminathan Research Foundation writes in Telecentre Magazine 2008 that telecentres play a critical role in disaster mitigation. He expalins how telecentres can assist the community in with mitigating natural disasters like in 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami, fisherman from South Indian sea coast had alerted the nearest village knowledge centre on the impending disaster. The timely action taken by the village knowledge centre had led to reduced loss of life and property. Given the increasing number of coastal hazards there is an urgent need for quick and responsive sea based information dissemination.  




Following is the detaled description quoted from the Telecentre Magazine, 2008 for your reference:

Telecentres for disaster mitigation

The M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), Chennai, India has a number of telecentres (Village Knowledge Centres) in South India rooted in the community development. In Pondicherry (now called Puducherry), members of the community can access indigenous knowledge, fishery and agricultural information, Internet and training services at no direct cost. The foundation undertakes fund-raising activities to underwrite telecentre services. For instance, the Government of Pondicherry pays for access to some services interpreted to have a high community development value. The network of telecentres are organised into Village Resource Centres and Village Knowledge Centres  clubbed as a Hub and Spokes Model, and have access to Indian Space Research Organisation's video-conferencing facilities, and enabled knowledge.Telecentres are specifically designed to meet special needs of fishing, crop farming and cattle keeping communities. Users can either walk into one of the centres of choice for information or receive information via loud speakers placed in strategic meeting places in the community. Information can vary in nature - like location of best fish catch for fishing community or weather information being re-packaged in local languages and formats that will be understood by the community. This information is vital for the fishing community to overcome unforeseen change in the sea. It also provides locale specific information on sea-based weather forecast, techniques of fish processing and marketing, natural disaster warnings, alternative employment for fisherfolk, the welfare schemes of the central and state governments, etc. Moreover the VKCs also helped local fishing communities hit by post-tsunami changes in fishing grounds, fluctuating weather and sickness due to extreme climatic conditions. In Veerapattinam village, just before the tsunami hit in 2005, fishermen, seeing abnormal changes in sea-behaviour, ran to the nearest Village Knowledge Centre, warned the villagers through the Public Address System of the VKC, which ultimately led to reduced loss of life and property.


If you have experienced similar stories, Flavor of the Month of October is the place to share your story. Please do share your stories, ideas, suggestions on how a telecentres can help with emergency or disaster coordination.

Looking forward to your active participation in the forum.



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Hi Seuwandi,

Thanks for the feedback, and great to touch base!

In the later part of the 1990’s the West Australian Telecentre Network was the largest coordinated network of Telecentre’s in the world. Second (I believe) was the NSW (Aus) CTC Telecentre network, however this is not true today.

Most early Australian Telecentre’s followed the Scandinavian name and model although most have now morphed into specific areas of community need and are no longer called Telecentre’s. Australians in particular always seemed to have difficulty with the word “Telecentre” given the ambiguity of description in the context of our culture and diversity of need (connectivity, the tyrany of distance, indigenous issues and poverty, education, health and interactions with existing CTC services such as the School of the Air, and the Royal Flying Doctor Service etc. etc. (I spent the greater part of yesterday organising computer donations for several former Telecentre’s; one now a rural Business Enterprise Centre and the other a facility supporting men with disabilities – each of these former Telecentre’s is now affiliated with other independent networks of BEC’s, CTC’s and Mens Sheds etc.

I suspect the Australian experience reflects the ultimate natural and expected evolutionary path of a Telecentre – most of our successful Telecentre’s eventually morphed into something other than a Telecentre (assuming we do not make the brand totally all-embacing of the spectrum of community technologies) – although to the topic in question, all still do have a part to play in the disaster management ecosphere.

Hi Don,
Thank you very much for the short intro on telecentres in Australia and its great to hear from you. I was thinking, I may communicate to you in a separate message or a separate forum as this space is already reserved for the topic "Telecentres for Emergency & disaster coordination".
so please keep in touch and I will get back to you soon. :-) Best!!!
Hi Don! Not detract from the focus of this thread on telecentres for emergency/disaster coordination but I just wanted to say that I was in a conference recently where I met someone who talked about the Global Learning Village model in Melbourne, which pretty much functioned as a telecentre. It's interesting how we all have these different names for telecentres (in the Philippines where I'm from, they're called 'community e-centres') which essentially do the same things. It'd be nice if we could have a compendium of terms by which telecentres are known in other areas of the world.
Hi Vida and lovely to touch-base.

The Global learning Village is one evolution of Telecentres working in concert with community need and IMO should not be isolated from the sphere of community disaster need and management. It is all intertwined. One of the Telecentres I was directly involved with in the’90’s (Coolah, ref: provided such a model by combining satellite outreach centres, senior education, school and local Library interactions so as to provide such a model. Perhaps of interest, the outreach centres were called called Internet Cafe’s in recognition of our community understanding of the term.

My background is predominantly in disaster works – I was formerly a Fire Brigade Captain and later Regional Commander for many years prior to working with Telecentre’s, and later involved with global disaster management software so I have some exposure to disaster need and politics – Disasters are a time of chaos and orgs and facilities that best meet community need are those with a mission and vision clearly understood by impacted persons (victims, managers and planners, responders, those otherwise impacted) - What we name a “Telecentre” is very important in the local context. Within Australia the term is not well understood; as a consequence Telecentres are not as well utilised in time of disaster as they could be. Conversely, Libraries, Community Technology Centres, Internet Cafes and other community facilities are well understood and better utilised in time of need. People know what these palces are, what they offer, what they do and how they can help.

IMO there is significance to this sub-thread in the context of Telecentres and disasters.

Cheers, Don
Thanks Don. That was a very important thing to note, that the answer to the question 'what's in a name?' is actually more crucial than we realize and could mean the difference between people accessing telecentres or not in a time of need.
Hi Seuwandi Yapa
Telecentres are limitless resources (Sources of information) to solve limitless socio-economic problems of the global society.Communities with easy physical access to telecentres can benefit much from faster transfer of knowledge and information that affects, shape and reshape the style of their daily living. Telecentres also play experience sharing roles by disseminating best practices on current global issues such as environmental protection,disaster prevention and poverty reduction strategies of countries around the world. Telecenters as a resource centers and as a medium of experience sharing can effectively help emergency or disaster coordination. However, what I doubt is that their physical and easy accessibility to disadvantaged rural community may be a great challenge in discharging these roles.
Respectfully Yours
Dialling into disaster risk reduction, a case from Bangladesh - here
A good one.. Thank you very much for sharing. :)
Hi, Seuwandi and others, fyi, the last issue of the "Community Technology Review" in 2005 --for a long time the official publication of the US-based Community Technology Centers Network ( and then the CTC AmeriCorps VISTA Project, currently archived in good part via the Wayback Machine at -- contains a number of pieces about CTC/telecentre disaster response in the US, primarily involving Hurricane Katrina follow-up. These can be found at and include:
* "Technology’s Role in Disaster Relief" by Danielle Martin
* "Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina" by Matthew Walker
* "A Response to Katrina from Chicago's Center for Neighborhood Techn... by Nicole Friedman
* "Winds of Change: A VISTA’s Experiences in the [CTC at the Houston,... by Nicole Payne
They provide extraordinary first person, domestic peace corps activist perspectives.
best, ----peter miller, boston, massachusetts
Thanks for sharing the links to these resources, Peter. I found the articles extremely informative. Do you know if there is a way we can get access to these former issues in PDF format for inclusion in our upcoming Online Library? I think many of the articles in the issues would be extremely useful to many of our community members.
hi, Vida, I've been working for a while to develop a full archive for The Community Technology Review. It's located at and currently has a link to the PDF version of the Fall 2005 issue. If there's other things you want that you don't see, feel free to contact me directly about them. best, ----peter
Thank you so much for sharing this resource, Peter! I will pass it on to your Librarian so he can make sure the issues there are also included in our Online Library. :)



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