Moving to the next level …
February 11, 2007 § Leave a comment
Hong Kong / Kuala Lumpur / Singapore, February 2007: With a week in East Asia behind me, a theme is settling int: moving telecentres to the next level. It was a week where almost every conversation was about building on existing telecentres … and not about building new telecentres.
When I think back, the opening eAsia speech by Malaysian Water, Energy and Communications Minister Dr. Lim Keng Yaik played a key role in focusing these conversations. Lim’s ministry has helped to build almost 1000 telecentres over the past few years. Instead of trumpeting this as a victory, he says that Malaysia’s telecentres haven’t yet had the impact they had hoped for, and that infrastructure was not enough. Lim spoke of a next wave of effort by his Ministry will be to encourage the growth of value added services and content that make these centres into a real development asset (and also help with sustainability).
While the need to move beyond infrastructure and into services is not a new idea, you rarely hear Ministers making passionate, almost activist speeches on the topic. This put wind in the sails of other eAsia presenters: critics of Nepali government telecentres; social entreprenuers from Grameen Phone; telecentre.org partners working on the telecentre academy concept. All used the fuel provided by the opening speech to get creative about what telecentres can look like when we get beyond the access conversation.
This theme was not only at the conference. It was also central to my conversations with Malaysian telecentre managers during field visits and in meetings with Intel, Microsoft and senior Malaysian bureaucrats. More on all this as I catch up on my blogs in coming days.