CMC going to scale in Mali, Mozambique, Senegal
The goal: a national network of at least 50 CMCs in each of the three countries – Mali, Mozambique and Senegal.
The first phase: some 20 CMCs in each country are now being planned in a two-year initial project phase implemented by UNESCO with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
The launch: the scale-up initiative was launched during the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva in December 2003 by Mr. Koïchiro MATSUURA, Director-General, UNESCO, Mr. Walter FUST, Director-General, SDC, President Amadou Toumani TOURE (Mali), President Joaquim CHISSANO (Mozambique) and President Abdoulaye WADE (Senegal).
The project implementation: UNESCO, together with the national governments, is implementing the first phase of the scale-up with national project teams in each country. The Organization is actively seeking to build up a strong partnership to support and expand the scale-up initiative.
The project rationale: UNESCO’s pilot Community Multimedia Centre (CMC) programme was established in 2001 to address the problems of lack of access to information and knowledge at the grass-root level. The first pilot CMCs – some 40 today in over 15 developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean – have demonstrated that they can be a tremendous platform for social and economic development, offering a way to combine traditional knowledge with the enormous reserve of information provided by the Internet.
However, these CMCs remain pilot projects, reaching only limited numbers of people. Although harnessing ICTs can clearly contribute to development and play an important role in the attainment of Millennium Development Goals, isolated pilot ICT projects cannot contribute directly or rapidly to this process. Thus, only through scale-up can CMCs realize their potential to impact significantly on economic and social development, education, good governance and preservation of cultural diversity.
The challenge of going to scale was recognized during the pan-African symposium “Community Multimedia Centres - Digital Opportunities for Africa”, organized by UNESCO and AMARC in Dakar, Senegal in June 2003. At that meeting, many international development partners currently involved in ICT4D activities (information and communication for development) agreed there is an urgent need to demonstrate that pilot ICT projects can break out of the “perpetual pilot” syndrome and go to scale.
UNESCO and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation subsequently proposed a scale-up initiative to the Heads of State of Mali, Mozambique and Senegal. All three agreed to champion the initiative and participated in the launch during the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva in December 2003, together with the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura and SDC Director-General Mr Walter Fust.
The scale-up project comes within the framework of the WSIS Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action and of the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP). It also reflects the goals of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development initiative (NEPAD), which promotes development of ICTs as one of its key action areas. The U.N. ICT Task Force also offers an important reference in terms of priorities, goals and objectives set by the international community.
The CMC scale-up initiative has “stretch” targets: it is beginning with enough funds to create around 20 CMCs in each of the three countries. But from the start, the stated aim has been to see 50 CMCs established in each country. Moreover, that target of 50 is only the minimum UNESCO estimates is needed to create critical mass- enough to begin really to impact on development. If this scale-up project is to be fully successful, it should not only reach the target of 50, but go beyond, led by national partners and with broad-based support from development partners.