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VSAT at CMC Puts Benin Community in Touch with World

18-01-2005 (Paris)
VSAT at CMC Puts Benin Community in Touch with World
Banikoara Community Multimedia Centre (CMC) in Benin has provided many essential services to the large but isolated local community in this cotton-growing region since 2002, but until recently, it was hampered by poor Internet connectivity.
Since UNESCO provided VSAT in September 2004, use of the CMC’s telecentre has shot up. “Even though nine computers are available for email and Internet from 8a.m. until 11 p.m., queues often form and we frequently have to stay open until midnight”, explained CMC director Mohamed Alidou.

The CMC is managing to cover the monthly cost of the connection through its affordable charges for use of the computers. But it now has only three computers dedicated to training because of the demand for Internet.

“People travel from up to 70 kilometres away to use the centre”, continued Mr Alidou. “It used to be the other way around. Before the telecentre was added to the radio here, people had to travel to Parakou to make a photocopy or send a fax. Now people come from other towns because they don’t have VSAT there”.

The impact is not only felt by users of the telecentre. Radio listeners now get regular access to online information, in their own languages. This is done through radio browsing programmes in which the presenter surfs the web according to a chosen theme and explains and comments on the contents of websites, with the help of a local expert.

These programmes are broadcast in Bariba, Denda and Peuhl, languages that are seldom found on the Web. “Thanks to the good connection, we are able to broadcast regular radio browsing programmes. Thet are greatly appreciated, as many listeners are illiterate and feel truly empowered by having access to Internet information in this way”, commented Mr Alidou.

In a recent opinion survey carried out by the CMC, all respondents said they felt that the CMC had broken through Banikoara’s isolation. The town is 60 kilometres from the nearest hard road, has poor telephone connections and very irregular electricity supplies.

« Before the telecentre opened, I was going to send my daughter to Parakou for computer training. Then she was able to get the training at the CMC at far less expense. Even for fax and photocopying, the CMC makes life much simpler and the staff are always there to help you”, noted El–Hadj Bani Sambo Djobo, second deputy to the mayor.

“I take my hat off to the CMC; it is a great initiative and has allowed many people who would otherwise never have come into contact with computers to get to use them”, agreed bank clerk Bio Toro Bani Gouda.

The CMC has an ingenious power supply from an adapted maize mill. During the long electricity cuts, people flock to the CMC where power is still on – to such an extent that the centre has now started a café to help raise further revenue for its activities.

« Everybody converges on the CMC when there is no electricity », explained forestry official Mohamed Bah L’Iman, « in Banikoara the power only comes on at 3pm but at the CMC you can always get a photocopy or use the computer”. And now, you can get a cold drink as well.
Related themes/countries

      · UNESCO and Community Multimedia Centres (CMCs)
      · News Archives 2005
      · Benin: News Archive
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