European (telecentre) union
March 26, 2006 § Leave a comment
Budapest, Hungary – March 20 + 21, 2006
Gaspar Matyas had gathered one fine crowd of telecentre people – telecentre people from Spain, from Russia, and from everywhere in between. They had gathered in Budapest to hear what their peers in other European countries were up to, and they were raring to go.
Organized by the European Union of Telecottage Associations (EUTA), the meeting was participatory, engaging and, at times, electric. The morning sessions looked something like a speedgeek. With the room set up as a bazaar, people rotated through 18 very brief presentations about the telecentre situation in countries represented at the event. The afternoon provided a chance for existing and potential EUTA members to explore possibilities for common action. Each small conversation group contributed to a wall full of ‘lightbulbs’ that will feed into the EUTA strategic planning process.
The day revealed a number of to areas where European groups are leading way within the telecentre movement.
One example is Hungary’s work on telecentre manager certification. Their ‘information society mentor’ program will begin as a state sanctioned college program this September. Graduates will be considered a part of a ‘new profession’ that is committed to helping people make effective use of information and services available through telecentres. If it receives funding from the EU, EUTA roll out a basic online version of the IS mentor program for use across Europe.
Another interesting case is the CTIC telecentre network in Spain. CTIC operates a network of over 80 telecentres in the Austuria principality. In many ways, the network looks alot like Drishtee or TaraHaat in India. Telecentres receive technical and operational support, centrally delivered services and training from the network. This helps them provide a more consistent and valuable services locally. The difference is that both CTIC and the telecentres operate on regular core funding from the government of Austuria. It seems that many other regions across Spain use this same model (funding both telecentres and a backstopping support network).
As these examples illustrate, the state plays a significant role in creating and sustaining telecentres in Europe. However, this does not mean there is a lack of social enterprise or even all out business approaches. The new UNDP / Government of Bulgaria telecentre program has financial sustainability and demand driven services built in from the very beginning. And, the Teledom Association in Russia runs 25 rural telecentres on a purely business oriented basis (but with social benefits around skills development and economic opportunity).
Clearly, the telecentre movement is alive and well in Europe, especially in the East. There are significant opportunities for EUTA to improve the game of centres if it can grow its capacity and focus over the coming years.