India’s evolving telecentre movement
September 3, 2006 § Leave a comment
Delhi, India – August 23 – 25, 2006: Ravi Gupta provided a clear mission for my valedictory address at last week’s India Telecentre Forum: talk about how the Indian telecentre movement has changed in the past year.
Certainly, a great deal has changed. The number of players has grown at the grassroots. Small companies and social enterprises are popping up with technology and service ideas. And, the government has stepped into the picture with a plan for 100,000 Community Service Centres and even more Panchayat based telecentres. Put simply: Swaminathan’s big dream of a knowledge centre in every village has become a growing snowball rolling down hill with a momentum that would be almost impossible to stop.
The Indian Telecentre Forum provided an excellent vantage point from which to view both the good and bad sides of this snowball. On the good side, the Indian telecentre movement continues to play to its strengths in terms of diversity and entrepreneurship. There are dozens of different private, government and NGO telecentre models being tried out and an equal number of organizations rushing to develop services and technologies that make sense in a rural context. Yet, there is also an undercurrent of fear and concern: What will happen when the government centres start rolling out? Will my model succeed? Can this whole dream really become a reality? While these questions are natural, they have the potential dampen the spirit of collaboration that pervades the Indian telecentre movement. That would be a shame.
Mission 2007 remains a great hope in this regard, providing philosophical umbrella that spans everything from global corporations to people working in telecentres on the ground. The convocation of National Virtual Academy fellows at the Indian Telecentre Forum demonstrated the power of this umbrella. The 75 grassroots knowledge workers receiving the fellowship this year had a chance to meet with policy makers, NGOs running telecentre programs and international telecentre leaders in the hours following the convocation. While this kind of dialogue may seem like a small thing, it’s actually a key ingredient in keeping the movement alive: a concrete and enduring connection between people running telecentres at the grassroots and people designing new programs and services. Mission 2007offers an opportunity to keep that connection alive.
PS. Super kudos to the CSDMS team for pulling off an amazing Indian Telecentre Forum event!