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Flavour of the Month for July 2011: Telecentres at the Margins

Measurement of poverty provides a good yardstick against which to assess marginalization. We use the social matrices to classify poverty based on incomes, health and nutrition, or education and knowledge. These indeed are the yardsticks that all efforts to unify mankind in development uses.


To help us delve into the discussion on marginalization, I would like to use the definition derived from Robert E. Park (1937) who noted that “the marginal one whom fate has condemned to live in two societies and in two, not merely different but antagonistic cultures”. In other words, marginalization is the exclusion of a man from one culture into another, or making real, in the mind of the person, that there are two realms in life with one being better and  the other not, and with him being in the one where exclusion is felt or experienced. In the mind of the marginalized therefore, they will visualize riches from which they are excluded – whatever focus they use to define poverty


The basis of creating telecentres was to provide a place of commonality in accessing the resource that is computers, the Internet, and other digital technologies, which help develop the digital skills to help support community economic, educational, and social development. Telecentres therefore seek to create a unifying platform for all by bridging the digital divide – through the provision of knowledge resources.


In the view of this month’s Flavor of the Month, my perception (which you have every reason to counter) is that the digital divide and the marginalization of man are the same side of the coin.


The focus for telecentres is to eliminate marginalization by addressing what societies see as the causes of the divide. Whatever you use as the basis of your telecentre model, it is the hope of the discourse of this discussion to hear from you, how you are addressing the marginalized – through whatever lens you assess that marginalization.


We want to hear from you the innovative approaches that can help others learn from you how your telecentre is doing to support the marginalized through the matrices of poverty indicated in the opening of this discourse as:

  1. Health and nutrition (Agriculture, Environment and Healthcare)
  2. Education and knowledge (Education and Digital literacy) or
  3. Income (Employment creation and Access to microfinance)


If your telecentre (or practice in supporting telecentre management) targets people with disabilities, women, the unemployed, out-of-school youth, or any of the measure of economic disadvantage, let us know how you have addressed marginalization (exclusion) by answering the following:


  1. What services (or products) does your telecentre provide?
  2. Do you categorize the services under any of the lead areas: Agriculture, Environment and Healthcare, Education and Digital literacy, or Employment creation and Access to microfinance
  3. Do you work jointly with the community in formulating these services; or what do you take into consideration to create them?
  4. Do you work with the government, other development partners, or professionals
  5. Do you think the categorization of service offering by telecentres under the headings of Agriculture, Environment and Healthcare, Education and Digital literacy or Employment creation and Access to microfinance can help in creating a measurable yardstick in assessing the needs of your target communities?
  6. Does provision of information and knowledge address marginalization?

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thanks kringai

we work on marginalized community

1- persons with disability


 2- out of school children and young's (illiterate )


Training of ICT skills to out of schoolchildren (illiterate) is another project to this marginalized community. According to statistic, there are more than 3 million out of schoolchildren in Sudan... GDCO developed an initiative with Gedaref ministry of education (represented by H.E. al-basheer Sahal) The ministry of education (e-learning council and adult education Khartoum), UNICEF, GDCO and Ahfad University started a project of e-learning in the in 3 villages in Gedaref state. They develop a curriculum and modules of training through the laptop for each child. The same problem was severe in northern rural area of Gedaref state where many children due to the climate change during the rainy seasons go with their families looking for pastures and grazing area for their animals where there are no schools and they miss their classes. So, GDCO will start to replicate the project in the rural area for the nomad’s children and in the city for the deaf community (poverty problem) with many partners including, DSE, ministry of education (the curriculum and modules of training) and the global knowledge partnership (GKP). The UNICEF is targeting 100.000 children all over Sudan (14.700 children in Gedaref state). The project idea is teach out of school children (8 – 17 years) using laptops with green (solar) energy and after two years of training the children 8 – 12 years old will be settled in the normal Sudan education system class rooms. And above 14 years will have a vocational training.

very soon i write brief about challenges and milestones in these two projects


Encouraging post Ahmed,


Some comments:

  1. Is it possible to also post some photos of the resources used and the people with disabilities going through the learning process with the ICTs your organization has supplied...
  2. Do you have any graduates of the marginalized who have started earning (or are mainstreamed into normal life) from their learning with your programmes?
  3. If other telecentres were to replicate what you are doing amongst the blind for instance, what advise would you be able to give them
  4. Do you think the effort of UNICEF is localized to Sudan or are they seeking to do the same in other countries so that we can all try and replicate their good work with you

Kindly respond to these as they would help many telecentres in our sustain

ability thinking 

Some time back Pakistan Social Association ( a NGO )I started "E-Village" project in Pakistan which aims towards promoting and using ICTs for development specially in rural areas of Pakistan. After creating awareness though media and seminars and workshops few villages were selected to estabalish telecentres. Computers and Internet was provided and boys and girls of the area were trained in basic computer skills. Focus was the economic empowerment through use of technologies. We tried low tech Internet jobs by the technical supervision of the students of a local university NUST. Let me share a real life situation. A boy of the village age nearly 16 years who physically saw the computer for the first time in his life was earning Rs 8000/- (nearly 100 US $ per month ) through a low tech ( just cut and paste steps) job after six months of basic training. This is power of ICT. 

 The participation of the community encourged me to think big and now after sufficient networking  with relevent public and private  organization we have  started a now project titled  " ICT4ALL Pakistan Vision 2015". Under this new initiative we would replicate the experiences gain to benifit more communities in Pakistan.

Wonderful experience Ammar,

One of the challenges in our telecentres is to create value through income generation...


My comments to you:

  1. If we take your experiential case of the boy -are the incomes to the individual boy and is he using the telecentre to make the money?
  2. How much, if any, of the earnings are retained to the telecentre for the services rendered
  3. Do you think the earning model is creating entrepreneurial "selfishness" or are your beneficiaries being reminded of their duty to the community through social entrepreneurship thinking?

Synergy Nepal(SN) established 13 telecenters in rural and remote villages. Our objectives are  eliminate poverty and promote good governance and empowerment.  So to obtain these objectives, we have started from digital literacy-basic computer application course to youths and women especially from ethnic, indigenous, socially excluded people.

A few telecenters are based in poor government schools where students are being benefited with computer education, exploration of new knowledge of science, English and math. They are able to broaden their knowledge. 2. Education and knowledge (Education and Digital literacy) or


3. Regarding the third topic "Income (Employment creation and Access to micro-finance)", SN is able to successful to generate employment as well as trained youths and women received new opportunities in villages due to telecenters that made them skill full.  Therefore, out of 13, one telecentre has expanded its business by investing on 10 computers and one big training room making total 15 telecenters.


So far  2 845 youths and women from 13 telecenters as of last July 15, 2010 received digital literacy training . There are a lot of demand for higher level of training. There are a lot of demands, opportunities and enthusiasts in villages in this 21st century. The  issue is negligible resource in the field telecenter!? How to coupe and how to balance between demand and supply!?

Bhakta, yours sounds a good case of social enteprise...I am excited with the model. A few questions for the telecentre community's benefit:

  1. Which curriculum are you using for the digital literacy is it the Telecentre Academy one or have you created one in Nepal?
  2. Do you have language or localization constraints in the delivery of the digital literacy?
  3. Your telecentres seem well advised on entrepreneurship, do you have particular lessons in entrepreneurship in your programmes and what products other than digital literacy are on offer from the telecentres?
  4. Do you link digital literacy to any other income streams...see my blog on Shared Services Organizations to see what I mean

Wonderful experience shared in your work sir!

Zambian farmers to use SMsize Internet based platform to improve their productivity.
Despite its potential, the agricultural sector in Zambia has performed below expectations. One of the factors that have been repeatedly mentioned as responsible for this dismal performance has been weak research-extension-farmer linkages.
However, this will be a thing of the past as Zambian farmers will soon start using their mobile phones to send questions on the problems they face in carrying out their farming activities and receive answers within shortest time possible.
With financial and technical support from the International Institute of Communication for Development (IICD), the department of National Agricultural Information Services (NAIS) has finally developed an Internet based platform where farmers will be able to use mobile phones and send questions on the most pressing problems they are faced with in their farming activities to NAIS and receive appropriate answers within the shortest time possible.
The SMsize platform allows farmers to send their questions on mobile phones in form of SMS to the platform and receive answers to their questions.
The platform will be accessed by NAIS agriculture information officers and agricultural specialists and other identified stakeholders so as to give appropriate answers to the farmers’ questions.
The system will also help improve the feedback system between farmers, agriculture information officers and the agricultural specialists in the Ministries of Agriculture and Cooperatives and Livestock and Fisheries Development and other relevant agricultural institutions in the country.
Each SMS on the system will cost 900 Zambian Kwacha (US$ 0.18) and this will reduce the current expenses farmers are incurring to post or send their discussion report forms for possible solutions to their farming problems.
The platform has been tried with farmer groups in Kasama district of Northern Province of Zambia (which is a pilot area) located about 900 Km from Lusaka. Farmers were happy with the new platform as they see it as a tool that will help them bridge the existing information gap between farmers and agricultural experts.
Based on the experiences in the piloted district, NAIS will now upgrade the platform and upscale the system to cover all the nine (9) provinces and allow all smallholder farmers access the platform.
The SMsize platform was recently introduced and demonstrated to the Permanent Secretary and all the Directors in the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MACO).
The idea behind this demonstration was to create awareness and allow policy makers in the ministry see how it works so as to have management buy-in.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Abedanigo Banda said, “The system has been developed at the right time when the ministry is faced with a serious challenge of shortage of frontline extension officers. I promise to support the project by lobbing for cheaper rates for farmers to send SMSs which are currently a little bit higher.”
The Permanent Secretary further pledged to negotiate with his counterpart at the Ministry of Communication and Transport and management at the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority to allow the platform to be hosted by the ministerial website so as to reduce costs of hosting the system.
Currently, the platform is hosted by SMsize through Airtel, one of the mobile service providers in Zambia.



You are spot-on on issues of research outcome diffusion. But as one of your key stakeholders indicatyed...the SMS price is not ordinary and may not address marginalization, however this is a good direction by IICD.


Questions to help this network...

  1. What is the expected level of literacy of your farmers who will benefit from this platform?
  2. Do you have language divergence in Zambia so that some of the farmers are not marginalized through communication?
  3. What is the organizational model of owning this platform - is it led by Airtel or by the farmers and farmer organizations? How is the membership constituted?
  4. Are private sector knowledge specialists paid, how much do they get for their responding to questions posed by farmers?
  5. Your pilot district farmers: Did they pay the 900 Kwacha and how was the price reached at?
  6. What is the volume of business that has come from the pilot?
  7. How much would a farmer earn by using the knowledge from this platform or what would be the incentive to seek knowledge from this platform?

Wonderful experience that would do very well all over particularly if the wealth marginalization is addressed..

Dear Kiringai,

Thank you very much for the comments. The questions you have raised are very important for the success of this platform.

1.The farmers that we target are smallholder farmers who meet and discuss their farming activities in groups, as such we did a small survey in the pilot district which showed us some good level of literacy among these farmers. At least 60% of farmers in each group can read and write (english and local languages).

2. Zambia has 73 languages and all these belong to one of the 7 main local languages spoken on radio and the platform has taken care of the language barrier by allowing farmers to send their SMS in either Englich or local language.

3. The platform is owned by the Ministry of Agriculture but it is currently being hosted by the SMsize through Airtel. It the more reason why the Permanent Secretary wants to have the system hosted independently so that farmers who use other mobile service providers such as MTN and Zamtel can have access to the platform. We are working on this.

4. The knowledge specialists are government employees in the Ministry of Agriculture and they are paid by the government. As for the private sector and Non Governmental Organizations, these collaborate with our extension service and information departments to provide services to the farmers.

5. Yes the farmers paid 900 Kwacha per sms but this is one issue we are again working to ensure that the prize is brought down taking into account the fact that information costs. We intend not to give farmers a sence of being spoon fed.

6. So far we have not yet determined the business volume from the district but it will is a good suggestion we need to factor.

7. We as a Ministry we are a service to the farming community in Zambia, and the information services that we provide to the farmers date back to as far as 1966 when the radio farmer listening groups were formed and farmers have greatly benefited over these years by accessing agricultural technical and marketing information through listening to our agricultural radio programmes. The system is just one way of improving the feedback between the ministry and the farmers. So we hope that the platform will supplement the agricultural extension and research services that we are mandated to provide as a ministry.

To sum it up, thank you very much Kiringai for your building and encouraging comments. We shall take them on board as we refine the platform.

I quite agree with Kiringai that telecentres provides opportunity for community to communaly access computers, internet and other digital technologies to help meet the needs of communities in food production, health care, education e.t.c.  This is a good point of view, but in my opinion telecentres should not only limit themselves to providing access to ICT if we are to fight marginalization of our people.  Telecentres should go further and improve communities capacity to use the ICT technologies as well as managing their skills  and Knowledge.  At UCRC we trained over 3000 people on basic computer knowledge through support of microsoft unlimited potential program and through this training which ended 2 years ago, we have started seeing communities eagerness to use these technologies in searching for solutions to issues of education, agriculture and financial services.  As a result of UCRC trainings, Ugunja market currently  have a big number of computer bureaus than many small rural centres around.  This has created employment for the youth, we have also seen a former UP benefiary who was a business lady developing her skills in photojournalism and mobile reporting.  This have not just happened as a result of trainings and creating access, but becouse UCRC has gone further to providing mentorship and guidence on the power of ICTs and how they can be harnessed for community development.  UCRC has attracted staff and volunteers with technical skills in the areas of agriculture, education, health and financial managment who are able to interact with the ICTS technologies and package the information required in a form that it can be usefull for the community.  As a result of this, the communities come to the centre as their source of hope and inspiration thus develops interests in using ICT for further exploration and service.  If telecentres miss on the human resource, then they stand a big chance of remaining an ivory tower that cannot be accessed by communities.  And this has remained a major challenge as many investments aim at equiping telecentres and forgetting the other bit of human resource that is key in knowledge managament and empowring the communities.  ICTs technologies cannot work in Isolation and UCRC stands to be counted as we are able to maintain the balance of using ICT technologies and engaging with members of the community even through traditional communication methods such as field days, demonstration, exchnges e.t.c

Its often investments in ICTs (sophisticated equipments, networks) and with minimal human resource support that is pushing telecentres to the margins.  ICT and human ware needs to walk hand in hand for telecentres to remain relevant and of service to the people.

Charles, your passion for education and knowledge trough ICT is shared by the entire network of this community. We thank you for your post and the experiences of your graduates.



  1. What is the actual statistic of the computer bureaus?
  2. Does UCRC have a system of outsourcing work for its graduates so that you create more focused engagement of the mentees you are channeling from your organization's programmes
  3.  Microsoft's Unlimited Potential Programme is definitely a powerful resource that telecentres should focus on using, the link to Microsoft should be encouraged and I am sure Cleopa will invite Microsoft to join in this discussion to advise the network on how we can all tap into this effort to create digital photojournalists, particularly during this season of Women Digital Literacy Campaign...

More people should tell the network community what they are doing with marginalized communities and ICTs.

Thanks Kiringai for your response and questions. 


Yes we do have a statistic of the bureaus that was taken sometimes back and is not updated, we need to conduct another survey to update our numbers.  Never the less, in 2009, Ugunja market had 8 new bureaus from just one in in less than 2 years and by now the number has even further gone up.  We have not started any outsourcing work but through (KENTEL), we are exploring how UCRC capacity can be further built to engage as a model rural BPO centre in Western Kenya.  More advise on this from this community will be really appreciated by us.


Microsoft is stiil willing to work with other telecentres; KenTel, UCRC and Microsoft organizing for an NGO day scheduled for August 4th.  More details will be provided by Cleopa and during this forum they will share how they can continue engaging with the telecentres.


Telecentres have a big role to play in empowering the marginalized and creating viable entreprises in our communities.



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