Benefits and Drawbacks of Telecentres

I was particularly intrigued by Mark Surman’s case study on telecentres, not only as a tool for development, but for a tool to foster community collaboration. We tend to forget that development can produce creativity; sometimes it seems that it exists only as a goal and the steps to reach that goal.

“Socially-responsible outsourcing” (SRO) is the use of information technology to benefit poor communities through outsourcing. A telecentre in rural Bihar is being used for Development 2.0, promising “direct development” and will supposedly bypass typical problems with new development systems. However like any initiative, telecentres have their drawbacks.

1) This is not “direct development.” Only data work can be done, not voice work. In this sense, another layer is necessary. The telecentre is not a sole solution to direct development as some hoped.

2) The cost of the telecentre in Bihar is $13,000. Additional investments are necessary for reliability of power supply.

3) Even after intense training covering IT, language, typing, and communication skills, telecentre staff still required the layered superstructure of quality control between them and the clients.

4) The pilot project created 19 new jobs in the village, but the new telecentre’s biggest problem is getting enough clients.

Telecentres can be successful and incredibly exciting for a rural village, but it is clear that costly training and monitoring are still vital for success.


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