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Communication and Information Sector's news service

Networking Multipurpose Community Telecentres in South Asia

26-01-2004 (New Delhi)
One hundred and twenty-five participants from the South Asian Association for Regional Corporation (SAAARC) countries (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) and resource persons from Asia Pacific attended a two-day international seminar on "Multipurpose Community Telecentre: Networking and Future Aims" which was held in the Nepal's capital Kathmandu on 15 and 16 January 2004.
The Seminar that was jointly organized by the Nepal Library Association (NLA) and the Nepal National Library (NNL) in cooperation with UNESCO, New Delhi was inaugurated by Crown Prince Paras Bir Bikram Shah Dev and Crown Princess Himani Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah.

Dashrath Thapa, Chief Librarian of NNL said in his welcoming speech that the Multipurpose Community Telecentres (MCTs) would contribute to development of a country by providing the government access to IT services. He continued saying that many countries in the world including some from the SAAARC countries have succeeded in implementing MCTs and thereby meeting the information needs of local communities. Observing such challenges and opportunities the two-day international seminar was being organized to discuss future trends in SAARC countries in developing MCTs.

The major factor, which seems to have prevented many rural regions from benefiting fully from the potential of ICTs has been the low penetration and quality of telecommunication services. Although recent developments and cost reductions in wireless communication technologies permit the availability of telecommunication services at any spot on the globe, there is still a cost barrier that Asian rural communities will not easily be able to overcome. This suggests the viability of providing a sustainable and cost-effective facility, capable of servicing most of the requirements of the local population. Such a centre could be seen as the community library of the future, supporting the goal of universal access to the emerging Knowledge Society.

Development information is one of the important economic commodities for development. However, access of rural communities to development support information service remains very limited. The rapid change in information processing has further altered the problem.

MCTs can offer basic telecommunication and office administration services along with all needed user support and training. They can facilitate access to library and information services, portals in support of literacy campaigns, e-learning, government programmes, and other public service activity. MCTs can link to "traditional" rural media for outreach activities, and may, for example, provide access to radio and television production.

A fundamental criterion for a community telecentre project is the participation and co-operation of a wide range of local organizations. These organizations should also be involved in establishing the facility and in developing "content" and applications.

There are many models for, and approaches to, empowering local communities through ICTs, including for example, the development of rural telephony, community radio or computer literacy in the schools. MCTs represent one approach, which is very promising, but still experimental in Asia.

The MCT concept was first developed in Scandinavia and adopted within the UN system by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 1994 within the Plan of Action of the first World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC) in Buenos Aires.

UNESCO has subsequently worked with the ITU and other partners to promote the participation of MCTs in development through a range of public library, educational, informatics and telecommunication services, including pilot projects in five least developed African countries and in Rajkot District, India. MCTs are one of several successful organization models for empowerment of local communities through information, communication and ICT promoted by UNESCO.
Related themes/countries

      · News Archives - 2004
      · Bangladesh: News Archive 2004
      · India: News Archive 2004
      · Nepal: News Archive 2004
      · Pakistan: News Archive 2004
      · Sri Lanka: News Archive 2004
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