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The Telecenter Movement in Nepal: Some Observations

The telecenter movement is at a very nascent stage in Nepal. It is a relatively new concept that is gradually gaining momentum. Nepal followed the Mission 2007 example in totality, right down to adopting the 5Cs to prepare the roadmap for its implementation at the national level. Just like Mission 2007, Nepal’s ‘Swabhiman’ is also a CSO initiated telecenter movement. With the Nepali government showing a keen interest in ICT enabled development; its proactive support is steering it forward in spite of the prevailing volatile political situation.

Nature of the services provided by the telecenters:
The telecenters are providing basic IT training and rural need based informations on agriculture, bee keeping, floriculture, health, environment, adult literacy and on enhancing livelihood opportunities. On the basis of a participatory need assessment survey, they can expand the scope of the services/information provided, as people are more interested in getting all the services at one place. They use appropriate ICTs, notice boards, meetings and FGDs to disseminate information among the community members. The IT training is provided through traditional formal classroom teaching involving face to face interaction with the students and through printed teaching manuals. Most of them provide three months training. They also conduct weekly/monthly tests to evaluate the progress of the students. Some of them have also formed women’s groups to promote micro credit activities.

Nature of telecenter clientele:
The youth are more proactive visitors to the telecenters, and they constitute the main beneficiaries. Women are somewhat hesitant to visit these centers, as they are not able to figure out how they are going to benefit from them. The community, in general, needs to be motivated to visit these telecenters and sensitized about the range of services, information and awareness programs that can be facilitated through these centers.

The telecenter initiative is supported by multi-sectoral partners including the community. Many of them are run by the community in a participatory way. One of the centers was completely supported by the Nepal government.

Sustainability Measures:
The computer training is not provided free of cost; but the fee charged is very minimal in comparison to other private IT centers; and this is how they are making the programme sustainable. All the centers have computers, printers, telephones, and other supportive infrastructure. Internet connectivity is not very reliable and it is also not free. Usually, the telecenter managers and other workers are volunteers.

Challenges Faced by Telecenters in Nepal:
The telecenter managers are not aware of the range of services that they can provide through the telecenters. They need to be well informed about the range of services/information/training and teaching that can be facilitated through these telecenters. If they confine their services to providing only basic computer literacy, the telecenters will be reduced to IT training centers, whereas the prime objective of these telecenters is to provide value added information and knowledge to the deprived and underserved communities; and facilitate the creation of ‘knowledge societies’.

Other challenges encountered by telecenters in Nepal include:
- Lack of adequate infrastructure;
- Need to motivate the community to visit the telecenters;
- Need to sensitize the community about the range of services, information and awareness generation programs that can be facilitated through these centers;
- Unstable political situation prevailing in the country;
- Measures to make the centers sustainable;
- Need to develop e-learning and awareness generation modules in local languages/dialects, so that they can be easily understood by the community. As they differ widely from one district to another, localization of learning modules through translations or customization is essential.
- Problems related to Internet and other kinds of ICT connectivity because of the mountainous terrain.

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