It is true that Telecentres are facing sustainability challenges and this is particularly attributed to personnel . In most case if a telecentre over depend it entire operations to the messy of Volunteers definitely it will have to collapse like a house of cards.
However, it also depends on the model of a Telecentre and the services it renders to the public. if it is a Telecentre with the followings services like a Community Radio it will require to have some support from the volunteers but they are not supposed to perform all the tasks in the studio there should be some one behind who is a bit skilled to work with the volunteers. for the case of CMCs there is a need to have an effective software to enable a center to record , programme and then play back and this can only be done by a team of 2-3 people so this will limit the number of times a volunteer has to come to the studio other than hanging at the Telecentre all the time.
Secondly, if a Telecentre operates on a business model like the pure cyber cafes , Secretarial bureau ( typesetting, photocopying, and printing ) it does not require a highly qualified personnel. for our case in Nakaseke we have trained people who have finished high school and they are doing well.
However, when it comes to technical work like repair, networking, Financial accounting ,budgeting ,planning and community mobilization these are the critical areas where we need some one who is a bit qualified either with a diploma or a degree to work with the reset of the staff to make the Telecentre move .
But above all with or without qualifications all Telecentre staff have to undergo through various capacity building in management and Technical areas. however, this is not a task that can achieved in a single day it has to be an on going business.
We should also remember that Telecentre are not 100% sustainable so having only qualified staff will be a very big risk because it is not easy to sustain them.
Hello Peter, thank you for this discussion and indeed i fully agree that telecentres do n't only need qualified staff for sustainability. There are a lot of factors that have to be put in place for a telecentre to fully sustain itself.
For instance; innovativeness. As i have pointed out in some of the discussions on tc.org, telecentre staff need to be in position to think of ideas that can work for their communities. If out reach programs work, these should be packaged in an appealing way. If it is important to establish fun clubs, so it should be.
Telecentre staff need to do research about their communities to find out what they need most and serve these needs basing on the main objective of promoting the use of ICTs for development at a small fee to rise funding.
Thanks Sandra for you positive contribution. You are now on the right track indeed knowing the community information needs is very important and it prepares the Telecentre do package the right information. However, it has some financial implications to the Telecentre.
The remedy is to build capacity building in content development, packaging and management skills. Governance of a telecentre also has to be considered there Centers that have lost their governance boards and this puts a Telecentre in a difficulty situation, there no regular meetings and staff just operate in their own style. so the entire community has to sensitized to develop a sense of ownership of a Telecentre.
more still, if you carry out a research you will find that some Telecentres do not have a saving and investment culture. Therefore, it will be very difficult for such a Center to operate in a sustainable manner. You also get surprised that some centers have no operational Bank Accounts then how do you expect such a center to sustainable?
You are absolutely right. It is not necessary to have a very highly qualified telecentre operator or manager to make the telecentre successful or sustainable. They cannot guarantee it. In addition to what Sandra said, the operator should also have leadership qualities and good communication skills to draw the community to the telecentre. During my visits to Indian rural telecentres, I have seen that in one telecentre (Embalam telecentre in the Puducherry state of India), women with education upto 8th standard or even below, are managing the telecentre so efficiently that they can put any MBA to shame. They have mobilised the women of the community, who were already the members of Self Help Groups or SHGs, and are also offering learning support to school children with the help of computers. They also know minor trouble shooting, so they don't have to depend on technicians for every little problem.
Their enthusiasm to learn how to opearte computers and then to make the telecentre a success in the village is their main driving force. So, I think Information Technology and management skills are not so much affected by the educational level of a person. If they find the technology valuable, they will go the extra mile to learn it irrespective of their educational status.
To address the main question, the staff or the telecentre operators need not necessarily have college degree. The assumption we are making is that if a telecentre operator holds a college or higher education degree, they are more likely to be successful. This is assumed because generally speaking, those with higher education degree are better equipped with knowledge, skills and know how in a broader sense than those without formal education. Nonetheless, there are exceptions to this rule. Only when education and skills are constructively applied and utilized does a enterprise succeed. As Shirpa pointed out, eight grade people can also successfully run a telecentre operation provided they are inspired, innovative, active and resourceful. Education nonetheless is critical and if individuals such as these are provided the opportunity for further educating themselves, possibilities are limitless.
The issue is not Sustainability and higher education but sustainability and the benefits that higher education provides which usually means ability to plan strategically, utilize resources optimally, conduct research and analysis, critically analyze and evaluate options and risks, crafting detailed marketing and partnerships products and services. As Shirpa correctly pointed out - by pursuing a more critical and analytical and research based approach open to innovation and observation, good results can be obtained. The approach is to pursue constructive methods.
“HOW” can telecentres provide such an environment that values continuous learning, innovation and research – that is the key issue?
To begin with, an organization must define its’ mission and organizational values. They must develop processes to support and further their mission, uphold their values and obtain their objectives. This involves implementing best practices, installing feedback mechanism, providing transparency and implementing checks and balances mechanisms, developing performance based or merit based work culture etc. Only by continuously enforcing these values and implementing process and procedures to support these values can an organization successfully create a dynamic, growth oriented work environment and educated, motivated and inspired workforce.