November 26, 2006 § Leave a comment
Madrid, Spain – November 21 + 22, 2006: Sitting in Madrid, I was overjoyed to find myself in a workshop entitled ‘el telecentro 2.0 o centro de servicios’. The session challenged telecentre leaders from across Spain to dream up a Santa Claus list of next generation community telecentre services. The result was a beautiful babble of ideas: medical and health services offered through videoconferencing; well trained student infomediaries who help seniors and others navigate the info society; participatory local democracy and urban planning using virtual reality. It was energizing to sit in a room filled with people who believe that we need to start thinking not just about community access, but also about community applications. For me, this is the essence of telecentre 2.0.
This beautiful babble was part of Fundación Esplai’s third annual conference on e-Inclusion, a gethering of over 100 telecentre leaders from across Spain. Two things struck me about this event. 1. It was filled with young people who see community technology as a compelling form of activism. The majority of the people at the event were under 30, which is in contrast to other western countries where people working on telecentre issues seem much more middle aged (like me :-)). 2. There were people from all different regions / networks / NGOs, but it all felt like one movement. This probably has something to do with the fact that Spain has one of the most developed approaches to telecentre networking in the world, with mature networks in a number of regions offering support and nurturing to thousands of local telecentres. Networking runs deep here.
One of the leading players in Spain’s networked telecentre ecology is Esplai itself. Starting as a web of grassroots community organizations in Catalonia, they have grown into a sophisticated organization with projects and partners across the whole country. They work on everything from economic development to the environment …. to telecentres. Their telecentre model includes a close coupling of a community development approach at the local level (each centre has a ‘motivator’ or community animator) with networks that provide training, support, new service concepts and financiang for local centres. Esplai’s success with this approach has led to a partnership with the Spanish government to help with the roll out of 3000 centres and to develop a national network. This meeting was a part of that national networking effort.