Multi-purpose Community Telecentres (MCTs) are structures that encourage and support communities to manage their own development through access to appropriate facilities, resources, training and services. “Multi-purpose” means that a Telecentre is able to provide different user groups within a community, with a range of services relating to different domains (from education/training to business, from health to local governance), and it does so by offering several technologies. “Community” refers both to local community ownership and community access through the telecentre. MCTs rely on such resources as public and community libraries and local mass media in order to facilitate access to information services and to improve the dialogue between citizens and local/national institutions.
Since 1994, during the World Telecommunication Development Conference, MCTs were considered by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
as a major vector for telecommunications addressing integrated rural development. The International Development Research Center (IDRC) established in 1997 the ACACIA
programme which has provided support for study and exchange of information on MCTs in Africa. UNESCO has been active in the MCT area since 1996 when it initiated a special effort to help developing countries to benefit from opportunities of telematics and information highways by adapting and exploiting telematics applications for development taking account ethical, social and legal concerns (such as cultural diversity and appropriateness of content).
UNESCO’s first major commitment for MCTs has been support for the establishment of pilot African telecentre projects
. Based on the promising results of these projects, UNESCO is supporting MCT experiments in other African countries and in other regions of the developing world such as south-eastern Asia (please refer on this page to MCT pilot project in East Sumatra, Indonesia
A crucial factor for the successful implementation of a community telecentre project is the involvement and cooperation of a wide range of local organizations, both in setting up the facilities and in contributing to the production of “content” and applications. The private sector can also intervene in the work of the MCT, in several ways, ranging from supply of equipment and services to operational responsibility under franchise, and in general supporting development-oriented community activities.