Resource 2.7.1 - Radio Receivers
Radios that use electricity are the most common and probably the least troublesome because they can be used day or night without fear that the batteries will run out. The problem is that, for many, electricity is simply not available. Transistor radios may use batteries, but they too can be relatively expensive and not readily available. Wind-up solar-powered crank radios may be the answer to these problems and more.
The crank radio (see the photos below) is solar-powered and self-powered; it needs no batteries or electricity to work. It winds up, and one full crank can last an hour. The crank motion creates tension in a clock-like spring that powers the generator in the radio, which, in turn, provides electricity. The solar panel stores the energy for the radio, and, in direct sunlight, the radio switches to solar power automatically.
|Crank Solar radio|
Resource 2.7.2 - Digital Radio
A geo-stationary satellite, AfriStar™, of the WorldSpace system orbits over Africa. Comprised of three beams, AfriStar™ covers every inch of the African continent, the Middle East and parts of Southern Europe. It broadcasts to portable digital receivers equipped with satellite dishes the size of teacup saucers (see photo at left). The audience hears crystal clear CD-quality sound without static or interference. The receivers run on batteries or electricity and have been adapted to use solar power. They can pick up the satellite's signal at any location in Africa and the Middle East, no matter how remote or isolated. When connected to a computer using a special adapter, they operate as a modem for transmission of Web-based multimedia data from the satellite to the computer.
Resource 2.7.3 - Suitcase Radio Station
The Commonwealth of Learning has sponsored the development of a portable FM radio system. The station configurations range in price from US$3,000 to US$5,000, including all elements: antenna, transmitter, console, mixer, microphones, and CD and tape decks The stations can be powered by 12V DC or 120/240 AC.
Figure 18.104.22.168 shows a station in its watertight carrying case. On the console (from left) is the gooseneck microphone, below it is the mixer, at the top right are two tape decks, and below them are two CD decks. The transmitter and power supply, not pictured, are housed under the console. The console is removed from the carrying case when in operation.
Apac, Uganda's northern region, wanted to install the portable station. A feasibility study, however, revealed several limitations with the electrical infrastructure, which was not reliable—a result of load sharing throughout the country (Apac could not receive power for several days). The power was also not usable for electronic equipment because of the dramatic power fluctuations. Therefore, it was decided that, to maintain a reliable broadcasting schedule and develop the station as a center point to community activities by different groups, Radio Apac would operated entirely by solar power. This frees the project from the constraints of the electrical situation and the tariffs associated with it. In consultation with a solar distributor in Kampala, a configuration was determined to allow the station to stay operational during the 18-hour broadcast day. Eight solar panels and seven deep cycle batteries were installed at the station, which now provide lighting and all of the station's power requirements for daily broadcasting (Figure 22.214.171.124). The life span of solar installations is more than a decade and entails low maintenance costs.
Source of figures and text excerpts: David Walker. March 2000. "FM Radio Stations: Broadcasting in the Sun." TechKnowLogia. Available at www.TechKnowLogia.org
Resource 2.7.4 Community Telecenters 
The community telecenters follow different organizational models:
- the adoption model, in which an NGO serves as the host organization, managing the center and integrating it, to one degree or another, into the organization's core business;
- the municipal model, in which a government agency opens a center, often disseminating information, decentralizing services, and encouraging civic participation as well as providing public ICT access; and
- the private-sector/commercial model, in which entrepreneurs launch for-profit centers with "social good" services offered as well.
Examples of these models follow.
Three Adoptions in Ghana
In Ghana, each of three NGOs in different parts of the country has established and assumed responsibility for operating a telecenter. Their stories illustrate lessons for public access efforts, including the importance of reaching out creatively to people and groups unfamiliar with ICT, achieving a balance between social service and commercial interests, and providing ICT training programs to build a firm client base.
Before opening their doors, Ghana's telecenters wisely undertook a comprehensive outreach program to familiarize future clients with the possibilities, potential, and relevance of ICT. For example, special days (or weeks) were set aside for women, youth, entrepreneurs, medical practitioners, local officials, and other groups to visit them. Invitations were distributed widely, and when the groups arrived, they received an orientation program designed specifically for them. Local celebrities, tribal leaders, and dignitaries from a variety of fields addressed the groups and cut the ribbons, and local radio and television stations covered the events. Each group left with a specially developed "take-away," such as a floppy diskette containing information relevant to its work, which helped to make tangible the virtual world to which they were introduced. Following these events was the launch of a seminar program inviting people back to explore topics of special interest, such as "The Computer as a Tool for Medicine."
One of the NGOs operating a telecenter in Ghana faced a dilemma between its desire to serve its constituents—the poor—and its need to generate revenue from clients able to pay. In part, it was a moral issue for the telecenter. While its contractual obligations included achieving financial sustainability, the clients it was dedicated to serving did not have sufficient funds to pay the fees necessary for the telecenter to cover its costs. By the end of the project, the NGO had managed to achieve a balance in three ways: first, by developing a sliding fee scale whereby higher-income groups subsidized lower-income groups; second, by building a popular training program for individuals and groups that generated substantial revenue; and, third, by bringing in large blocks of income through outside contracts. For example, through a British Council-sponsored program, the telecenter was paid to provide computer training to groups of secondary school students. In this way, the telecenter could bring in sufficient revenue without having to rely exclusively on individual fees from low-income users to support its operations.
One of the greatest strengths of the LearnLink-launched telecenters in Ghana is their focus on training. From a modest beginning, the telecenters became a significant skill-building force nationwide, supplementing and extending learning opportunities beyond those available in either public and private educational institutes, and providing more practical, hands-on training than some technical universities. In just two years, the training program not only provided more than 10,000 individuals—students, teachers, businesspeople, and even staff from the national telecom—with useful ICT skills, but it also contributed to the financial sustainability of the telecenters, which have relied on client fees to operate since external funding ended. Moreover, when the centers first opened, clients required assistance for even the most basic functions. Due to effective marketing of the training program, 77% of telecenter users registered for training classes. As clients developed their own skills, staff were freed to attend to other functions.
A Municipal Model in Asunción, Paraguay
The vision was good: the Municipality of Asunción would provide less-advantaged communities in the city with the benefits of ICT for civic development purposes. People no longer would have to travel downtown and stand in long lines to register to vote, obtain licenses, or access databases of government information. Instead, they could do it all at neighborhood-based municipal centers. The telecenters would help devolve official functions to the neighborhood level, the public would be better informed and more engaged in democratic processes, and citizens in poor communities would have access to improved communication facilities and opportunities for civic education and lifelong learning. According to Sergio Aranda, LearnLink resident advisor, "it became clear that…this project needed to be looked at in terms of social demand. It needed to be tied into the daily lives of the residents."
Considering every person and group in town a potential partner, the local director of the municipal telecenter activity forged alliances with the potential to contribute greatly to its own long-term sustainability:
- In return for displaying marketing materials in the telecenters, the local Internet service provider gave the telecenters free Internet connectivity.
- In exchange for free e-mails, Peace Corps volunteers provided free administrative assistance.
- For use of the IT equipment, Catholic University instructors trained telecenter staff in facilitation skills.
- College students designed Web pages for the municipality in exchange for discounted online time at the telecenters.
- Police and prison officials, who used the telecenters to learn computer skills, provided security.
- The mayor, an enthusiastic supporter, participated in teleconferences with local residents, attended telecenter launch celebrations, and found scarce municipal funds to help cover maintenance costs.
Informal contributions were elicited, too, with enthusiasm. Just for the chance to have a telecenter in its neighborhood, a local association of bricklayers, masons, and carpenters built the center, literally and voluntarily, from the ground up.
A Commercial Model: PC3s in Bulgaria
Nearly half of all Bulgarians live in small towns not yet reached by the economic progress underway in urban areas. The farther a community is from one of Bulgaria's five largest cities, the greater is the gap in economic development.
This holds true as well for access to ICT. While multiple Internet service providers (ISPs) compete with one another in urban centers, few operate in small towns and rural areas. Where Internet access is available, average prices for service are almost twice as high as in the cities.
In Bulgaria's cities, ICT is helping to drive development by:
- stimulating economic competitiveness;
- catalyzing spin-off businesses;
- creating a platform for e-commerce;
- increasing employment;
- increasing education and training opportunities;
- improving communication; and
- facilitating provision of government and social services for city dwellers.
Lacking infrastructure and access to ICT, small towns and rural areas are in danger of falling even further behind. To meet IT access needs in these areas, a Public Computer and Communication Center (PC3) program is underway to create viable telecenter businesses that combine for-profit and public good services with a sound business plan.
Essential elements of the business plan include:
- launching PC3s with local entrepreneurs;
- distributing prepaid computer access cards, redeemable for PC3 services, to groups throughout Bulgaria to stimulate use and reduce risk for operators;
- developing local language resources on social and economic development for clients;
- providing hardware, technical assistance, training, and Internet connectivity subsidies to operators;
- promoting spin-off businesses, such as the sale of peripherals, desktop
- publishing, and equipment repair; and
- providing local businesses with e-commerce assistance.
Resource 2.7.5 - Telecenters: Selected Resources
UNESCO Guide to Community Multimedia Centers: How to Get Started and Keep Going
UNESCO Portal for Telecenters
This site presents information on projects and tools
International Community Telecenter Resources
The UNESCO site seeks to facilitate development of community telecenters worldwide by providing information, experiences, and resources related to practical telecenter implementation and management.
Assessing Community Telecentres: Guidelines for Researchers
This IDRC report (free online version) covers a telecenter evaluation plan, indicators in telecenter studies, issues in sampling and surveying, matching research methods to data needs, and data analysis and reporting.
IDRC Telecentre Research
This site serves as a meeting place for people interested in telecenter practice and research. Information on IDRC's telecenter initiatives is included, along with links to resources produced by others working in the field.
Community Telecenters: Assuring Impact & Sustainability
The Development Gateway Highlight features an interview, several research papers, and articles discussing case studies that appear to have succeeded in both their development impact and financial sustainability. The site also includes a number of links to resources on community telecenters available on the Internet.
CTCNet Community Technology Center Start-Up Manual
CTCNet serves as a support mechanism for Community Technology Centers (CTCs) by providing electronic and in-person links for its affiliated programs. This manual covers timeline and process, mapping community resources, determining program focus, staffing, software selection and criteria, space, hardware, security, scheduling, outreach, self-assessment, budgeting and funding, and preparing a business plan
Gender Analysis of Telecenter Evaluation Methodology
This document addresses how gender can be integrated meaningfully into telecenter evaluation methodologies. It is animated by African experiences and examples, particularly South African experiences and examples.
| Excerpted from: Mary Fontaine. 2002. Community Telecenters: Enabling Lifelong Learning. In Wadi D. Haddad and Alexandra Draxler (Eds.) Technologies for Education: Potential, Parameters, and Prospects. Paris: UNESCO, and Washington, DC: Academy for Educational Development. |