Telecenters and the Issue of Trust in Implementing E-Governments

After searching in vain for a more recent update on the status of South Africa’s e-government implementation, I found another article that related in part to the process of ensuring mainstream access in South Africa by generally discussing the use of telecenters. Somewhere along the way in my research, I learned that South Africa attempted to mitigate the resulting increased digital divide by promoting the use of e-government in telecenters. This would enable those without personal computers (or cell phones with internet capabilities) or internet to have a similar level of access to e-government resources in their own communities. This approach was in conjunction with the Zuza Software Foundation’s efforts to create open source software in South Africa (with the goal of making pages easy to translate into one of South Africa’s ten other languages). With these innovative phenomena acting in conjunction, one would think that mitigating two of the biggest access challenges would be a revolutionary impetus of widespread use of e-government resources.

However this article delves into the issue of trust within telecenters themselves – how it’s a multi-faceted paradigm that needs to be thoroughly overcome before expecting those with the greatest needs to use telecenters to their fullest capacities. Specifically within e-governments, the article addresses the importance of a human “local intermediary” with whom citizens feel trust to ensure success of telecenters in e-government service delivery;

“In the context of developing countries,there is a need for human intermediaries to bridge both the overt and the social resource endowment gaps between what the poor have and what they would need in order to use ICTs”

The ideal intermediary is an individual from the community directly targeted by the ICT and who has generally good knowledge and enthusiasm for the ICT at hand, who can essentially help out with any problems or possible frustrations that could be associated with using the ICT. Apparently this person leads an almost essential role in improving the rates of telecenter use. Besides having trust within the institution, online communities, the government itself, and in other aspects of technology, a human intermediary between the user and the ICT is necessary for full accomplishment.

Source: E-Governance Services Through Telecenters: The Role of Human Intermediary and Issues of Trust

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