The Effect of Telecentres

At the very end of class on Tuesday someone asked, “ When a developed country like the United States brings new technologies to a developing country, but the people don’t want to use them or have anything to do with them, does that count as a win for the U.S. and for the spread of technology”? The class left this question unanswered. The way I see it, how could this be counted as a spread of information communication technology? If the technology products are physically there but not being used, they are not helping the people and not bringing the world any closer together.

In the late 1900’s and early 2000’s rural telecentre’s became a way of trying to bring technology to areas in need. There were multiple problems with these centers; they don’t always fit the needs of the community, they aren’t sustainable, the technology becomes outdated very quickly and they are hard to maintain. Telecentre’s tried to bring a ‘one size fits all model’ to improving people’s technological needs. The problem is that people and communities don’t lend themselves to only one model. Every community is different with different resources, needs, ideals, education level of the citizens, etc. Although it may seem like a good idea in theory to bring computers and internet to rural communities, how does a local farmer in Sub-Saharan Africa who lives on less then $2 a day, possibly doesn’t have electricity, has little education and might not even no how to read, know how to use a computer? In order for a telecentre to really be effective there needs to be people on the ground in these rural areas educating the people, which can become very expensive. Which brings me to the over arching question: how will technology actually benefit the majority of people in these rural areas? How will the people learn to use the new technology? Although it would allow them to enter the world community, will it really change their day-to-day lifestyle and make their lives any easier?

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