Key Issues for the Successful Implementation of Rural Telecenters
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Key Issues for the Successful Implementation of Rural Telecenters -Success Factors and Misconceptions-. By Kenji Saga Chairman, the Digital Divide Study Group The Japan Society of Info-communication Research. Digital Divide Factors. Disparity between;

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Key Issues for the Successful Implementation of Rural Telecenters-Success Factors and Misconceptions-


Kenji Saga

Chairman, the Digital Divide Study Group

The Japan Society of Info-communication Research

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Digital Divide Factors Telecenters

  • Disparity between;

  • Developed country and developing country

  • Urban area and rural/remote area

  • Differences caused by;

  • Income

  • Education and job training

  • Race

  • Gender

  • Age

  • Disabilities

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Why Tele-center? Telecenters

  • Because, without communication infrastructure, we cannot transform the Digital Divide into Digital Opportunity in rural and remote areas of developing countries.

  • The most cost-effective solution in rural area is to share necessary facilities at tele-centers.

  • We have various experiences of building tele-centers world wide.

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What is Tele-center Telecenters?

  • Tele-centers are public facilities that offer shared access to ICT.

  • They are public places where people can use computers, the Internet, and other media; get training; and often obtain a variety of other communication-related services. (Roman and Colle, 2001)

  • In reality, tele-centers are full of varieties.

  • Establishment and sustainable operation of tele-centers are becoming a important policy target to bridge the Digital Divide in rural and underserved/unserved areas of developing countries.

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Tele-center projects in Asia Pacific Telecenters

  • Community Access Programme (CAP: Canada)

  • Open Learning Centers (Queensland, Australia)

  • Multi-purpose Community Telecenters

    (MCT: Thailand, Vietnam, Mongolia, etc.)

  • Tambon Net (Thailand)

  • Yap SEED (Yap states, FSM)

  • People First Net (PFnet: Solomon Island)

  • Community Tele-service Center (CTC: Indonesia)

  • Tele-cultural Centers (Vietnam), etc.

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Myths (misconceptions) Telecenters

Build it and they will come…

One size fits all.

Rural demand is very limited.

High costs are unavoidable.

A carrier of last resort is the best model.

Infrastructure is all you need.


It is necessary but not sufficient for development.

It should be customized.

If well designed & managed , various needs exist.

Innovative technologies are reducing costs significantly.

Bidding schemes introduced.

Training, applications and...

Rural Tele-centers: Myths and Realitiesby Dr. H. E. Hudson (at PTC’99)

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Factors Hindering Progress Telecentersby UNDP(lessons from Solomon Island PFnet, 2003)

  • Unavailability of finance for scaling up

  • Lack of national ICT strategy

  • Need for more coordination on ICT

  • High cost of IT

  • Lack of IT capacity, right awareness

  • Lack of credit for rural enterprises

  • Uncertain legal situation for the Internet


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Key Issues for the Success of Rural Tele-centers Telecenters(Part 1) by Kenji Saga at Telecom 99

  • Powerful leadership with careful management

  • Participation of rural people from initial stage

  • Collection of sufficient information at specific site

  • Identification of needs from initial stage and design step by step development of service provision

  • Small investment and low operational cost at initial stage for commercial operation, and expandable system design to meet increasing needs, and

  • Development of human resources and participation of rural people in operation (establish partnership with NGOs)

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Key Issues for the Success of Rural Tele-centers Telecenters(Part 2) by Kenji Saga at Broadband Workshop 2003

  • Three additional success factors

  • Strategic approach by government (and/or local governments/communities)

  • Access is essential, but if possible, Broadband access to meet growing and multi-media needs

  • Information sharing on success factors and factors hindering progress

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Success Factors: Strategic approach TelecentersCase Study 1: Tambon Net (Thailand)

  • Integration of National Economic Development Plan with National IT Strategy (IT2010)

  • “One Tambon One Product” Initiative → Facilitation of local products and industries (SMEs) by National Economic Development Plan

    (Tambon: group of villages)

  • “One Tambon One Product” Initiative combined with “Tambon NET” project (IT2010)

    ( Tambon Net: “One Tambon One Tele-center” project)

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How to expand Asia Broadband Program into Pacific Islanders TelecentersPolicy Recommendationsby Paciific Island Digital Opportunity (PIDO)Study Committee

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Policy Recommendation (1) TelecentersInterconnection of existing HRD networks

  • There is great potential in expanding the network connections for HRD in the Pacific Islands through interconnecting the existing distance education/training networks, such as JICA-net, PEACESAT, USP-net and others.

  • This is more economical way than constructing a new HRD related network.

  • It will help to raise and maintain the high quality and effective use of training content.

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Recent trend for interconnecting HRD networks Telecenters

  • JICA and World Bank Institute have recently agreed to link JICA-net and the World Bank’s Global Development Learning Network (GDLN) to enhance JICA’s training capacity worldwide.

  • Interconnection of JICA-net with USP-net and PEACESAT will realize expansion of JICA-net to Pacific Island nations.

  • The important next challenge would be a shared use of contents among many projects in the Pacific Islands area.

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Policy Recommendation (2) TelecentersHuman Resource Development Training Courses

  • Locally trained and skilled personnel are essential for the sustainable operation and maintenance of ICT networks.

  • The Yap SEED model demonstrates the potential and capacity of the Pacific Island communities to locally manage their own systems and develop local content.

  • There are many schools with computer lab which have potential to become rural tele-centers. Computer lab instructor training (both teachers and community volunteers) are essential for the successful implementation of rural tele-centers.

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Case Study 2: What is Yap SEED Model Telecenters

  • Yap State Education Enterprising Department (Yap SEED) has implemented successful ICT infrastructure and related projects.

  • Yap SEED excels by implementing innovative concepts for delivering education;-

  • Culturally relevant and grassroots efforts in curriculum development,

  • Strategic design for distance education and for tools to assist students and educators, and

  • Local HRD and innovation in maximizing available limited resources.

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Lessons Learned from Yap SEED project Telecentersby James Stevenson

  • Students are a great resource, and they are only limited by the tools and hardware you give them, BUT…..

  • Most teachers are threatened by the abilities of the students which make them feel they have lost control.

  • Teachers need to know “It’s Okay” if the students know more than they do about computers…It’s not a loss of control.

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New Realities Telecenters(Lessons learned from Yap SEED by James Stevenson)

  • High school students produced multi-media CD-ROMs for kids in the elementary schools showing the differences in Yapese cultures.

  • Kids of all ages take to technology like fish to water.

  • A mix of good educational practices and technologies will increase student’s interest, which in turn increases learning.

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Policy Recommendation (3) TelecentersEstablishment of Common Spectrum Policy

  • In order to facilitate grass-roots development of rural information infrastructure using wireless LAN technology, we would recommend a common policy for all Pacific Island countries to introduce non-licensing scheme for 2.4GHz and 5GHz band. (Example: Yap SEED project)

  • Wireless LAN system is becoming a key technology to solve “last one mile” issue in reducing the cost and realizing broadband access.

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Advantages of Wireless LAN Telecentersin Pacific Island area

  • Economic Efficiency

  • Compared with wireless equipment installed by traditional telecom carriers, construction and operation cost are very low. Although reliability and stability are reduced somewhat, but cost-performance is very high.

  • Regionality

  • As the Pacific island area has few large cities, there is little radio interference.

  • Staff Education

  • The technological know-how required for wireless LAN is not much more than that required for amateur radio systems.

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Policy Recommendation (4) TelecentersBroadband Access to the Internet

  • The most important problem to be solved is “Broadband access at affordable rates.”

    by President of PCC and Yap MCC

    - Present status of international connectivity –

  • Shared access to the Internet through 128kbps from 100 computers at Palau Community College (PCC)

  • Shared access to the Internet through 64kbps from 20 computers at Yap Campus of Micronesia Community College (MCC)

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High speed download Telecenters

High cost? Reduction of cost by competition and innovative technology


Full use of applications





Low speed and take time

Low cost? But depend on deregulation, competition and new technology

Text centric

Limited use of applications

“However, narrowband tele-center should not be ignored”

Wideband vs Narrowband

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Policy Recommendation (5) TelecentersNarrowband access should not be ignored.Because

  • There are many remote, isolated and depopulated islands in the Pacific Island area.

  • It is essential to have access to information in order to bridge the digital divide.

  • In some cases, broadband access will become too expensive under present situation.

  • There are some examples of best practice using HF radio systems such as Solomon Island PFnet.

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Case Study 3: PFnet: TelecentersSolomon Island People First Net

  • PFnet is an NGO-Government partnership established through the UNDP project.

  • Tested model for sustainable, community-owned rural access

  • Web site portal with rich content

  • Facilitated networking for:

  • Distance learning

  • Agriculture and fisheries development

  • Indigenous business development

  • Rural vocational training (by UNDP)

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Success Factors Telecentersby UNDP (Lessons from Solomon Islands PFnet)

  • Participation of communities

  • Holistic approach (training and capacity building)

  • Small but many (many sites with basic access initially)

  • Popular applications (opportunities school push-outs: location in community schools)

  • Support from development community

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Success Factors (continued) Telecentersby UNDP (Lessons from Solomon Islands PFnet)

  • High Frequency (HF) Radio Email

  • No per minutes costs

  • Range 1000+ km without repeaters

  • 2kbps with 4:1 text compression

  • Secure (encrypted) closed network

  • Simple: Operators autonomous after 1 week

  • 1 base station capacity for 100+ stations

  • 80W Solar power supply

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Policy Recommendation (6) TelecentersPromotion of remote island tele-center projects

  • The Pacific Islands have many characteristics (small population, limited resources, the need for shared and multipurpose facilities) that would imply many benefits from establishing tele-center.

  • The support needed in this area includes many aspects such as financing, planning, development of sustainable tele-center operation, and sometimes include power generation systems.

  • Human resource development is also essential for sustainable operation of tele-centers.

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Policy Recommendation (7) TelecentersNetworking among hospitals, health centers and dispensaries

  • The health care communities in the Pacific Islands all share the common problem of having very little resources to contribute to the implementation of ICT networks and services that would increase the quality of care on-island, decrease the inflated unnecessary off-island referral costs by providing videoconferencing access to remote specialists.

  • Health care providers in the islands need seed funds to initiate the planning and implementation of ICT networks and applications, and for ICT training of physicians, nurses and hospital staff.

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Problems to be solved Telecenters

  • How to realize sustainable operations for rural tele-centers?;

  • Wireless LAN technology is the only one solution for “last one mile” issue. Is it reality?

  • How to implement cost-effective long distance access lines for the global internet access from rural and remote areas of island countries in the Asia Pacific region?

    I would like to call for discussions on these issues.

    Thank you for your attention.