Asia Pacific Telecentre Network:

Filed under: March 2010 |

March-2010

Dil Piyaratna

Programme Head
Information Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA)
dil@icta.lk 

Seuwandi Yapa

Content Facilitator
Asia Pacific Telecentre Network and telecentre.org, Asia.
seuwandiy@icta.lk 

Asia Pacific Telecentre Network (APTN) is a United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for the Asia-Pacific (UN-ESCAP) initiative, which is working towards creating a platform of telecentre networks to share experiences on issues of their interest (content, sustainability, connectivity, etc.). It also engages the national networks to cooperate on the development of solutions for their common problems in order to empower poor and disadvantaged communities through Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Asia Pacific Region.


 

Background

The World Summit on Information Society (2003 and 2005) and the World Summit for Sustainable Development (2002) recognised the importance of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in narrowing the digital divide and attaining sustainable development, respectively. In view of the above, many countries established community access points with the intention of providing common access to ICT related services to rural communities. However, it has now been realised that these have not been able to capture the fragmented and underutilized knowledge of the poor and the disadvantaged communities. While many reasons could be attributed to this situation, some of the significant causes are; inadequate exchange of experience related to ICT, weak linkages with stakeholders and low capacity of disadvantaged communities in accessing and utilising knowledge.

The project entitled ‘Knowledge networks through ICT access points for disadvantage communities’, which is being implemented by ESCAP, attempts to empower them through transformation of selected  ICT access points into knowledge hubs of global knowledge networks by providing, developing, organising, sharing and disseminating knowledge demanded by  them . In the process, the project anticipates achieving the establishment of global/regional knowledge network(s) for community development, enriched value proposition of ICT access points through their transformation into knowledge hubs and increased engagement of poor and the disadvantaged in the transformation process.

Since the inception of the project in 2006, a number of activities have been accomplished to achieve the primary objective of the project. A preliminary review identified the best practices of telecentres and knowledge-hubs, while the two regional meetings shared experience on telecentre operations and consulted telecentre operators on possible establishment of networks. Subsequently, the Asia- Pacific Telecentre Network (APTN) was established. The Asia-Pacific Telecentre Network (APTN) was officially launched at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok on 19th November 2008, during an event attended by high level officials from 16 countries of the Asia-Pacific region, representatives from several United Nations bodies and other organisations. It was a collaborative initiative of UN-ESCAP together with 18 founding members from 10 countries in the region and support of partners, such as the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and telecentre.org.

Asia- Pacific Telecentre Network Secretariat

Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) of Sri Lanka had the privilege of hosting APTN Secretariat. It was set up on 7th February 2009 by the Secretary to the President and Chairman of UN-ESCAP’s Committee on Information and Communication Technology, Mr. Lalith Weeratunga. While setting up the APTN Secretariat in Sri Lanka, Mr. Lalith Weeratunga gave an insight into the benefits of the Secretariat being hosted by Sri Lanka. “I….being delighted that Sri Lanka has been selected to host the Secretariat of the Asia Pacific Telecentre Network and being aware that by hosting the Secretariat, Sri Lanka can benefit as well as perform a pivotal role in making world community benefit from innovations and knowledge-sharing amongst telecentre organisations in the Asia-Pacific region…”

Objectives of the network

The APTN was set up with two main objectives. The first expected accomplishment is specifically concerned with transforming ICT access centres from conventional to smart knowledge hubs. Secondly, it is intended to empower the poor and disadvantaged communities through further conversion of these knowledge hubs into regional/global knowledge networks. Transforming an ICT access point into a knowledge hub involves revitalisation of ICT access points, developing new functions, connecting them with the global networks, and activating partnerships. By becoming knowledge hubs, it is expected that the access centres will  have a positive impact on the development of local communities. Therefore, the APTN, which is established as a voluntary network of telecentres operating in the countries in the Asia-Pacific region, strives to promote the interest of the telecentre movement throughout the region, and to strengthen the capacity of telecentres to provide, develop, organise, share and disseminate knowledge for the sustainable development of marginalised communities. Further, the network aims at synergising various initiatives being carried out by different institutions. There are several issues, which APTN would like to incorporate in its future plan, such as:

  • Advocacy – providing a forum for identifying common issues and views, and promoting sustainable telecentres;
  • Knowledge sharing – sharing experiences, skills and expertise, identifying new or re-usable solutions for common problems, sharing researches on telecentre implementation – lessons learnt and best practices, and sharing knowledge on methodologies and tools used for telecentre assessment and evaluation;

 

  • Collective action – producing products collaboratively and pooling resources and creating synergies.

 


The workshop discussed the benefits that APTN can provide to information and knowledge sharing, sustainability, best practices and resource mobilisation for effective knowledge hubs/ networks


 

Role of the APTN

The main objective of setting up APTN is to promote innovation and knowledge-sharing amongst telecentre organisations in the Asia-Pacific region where telecentres are growing exponentially each year. In achieving its target, its role was modified and developed through several activities, which were followed by the initiative in November, 2008. During the regional workshop on Knowledge hubs in Asia Pacific Region, held in Nanjing, China on 8-10 September 2009, it discussed the benefits that APTN can provide to information and knowledge sharing, sustainability, best practices and resource mobilisation for effective knowledge hubs/ networks. Also during the Regional Workshop for Knowledge hubs and Networks in Asia Pacific Region- Next Step, held in Bangkok, Thailand on 10-11 December 2009, it further upgraded the role allocated to APTN as follows:

  • Develop APTN website/portal -  Act as a repository of knowledge derived from the Asia-Pacific and other regions including accurate and updated database, tools and directories of resources for the benefit of national networks.

 a. Work towards knowledge sharing and knowledge fusion of best practices and unsuccessful practices with a pro-active approach.

 b. Play a crucial role in facilitating knowledge sharing, transfer and analysis.

c. Facilitate periodic online chats and discussion lists with the help of anchors from national networks and experts.

 d. Manage a website based on participatory design to help develop collaborative learning and content development in coordination with telecenter.org and other regional networks.

e. Knowledge synthesis becomes key vis-à-vis simple knowledge sharing with strong linkages with the ‘telecentre magazine’.

  • Consultancy assistance – Facilitating consultancy work in Asia Pacific, or creating a database/ pool of experts in various areas that will be useful for national networks/operators and knowledge hubs.
  • Funding assistance – Work with national networks to identify specific projects for donor funding in multi-country partnership.

 

  • Accessing potential donors jointly with member networks for greater credibility.

 

  • Event coordination – coordinating events in partnership with eAsia or other larger events.

 

  • Resource mobilization – working together towards a common goal.

 

  • Enabling policy – assisting governments in implementing the telecentre component in eGovernment programmes, and including telecentres in providing government services to citizens in the rural areas.

 

  • Taking a proactive approach to telecentre development.

 

  • Facilitate knowledge exchange between national telecentre networks.

 

  • Facilitate study tours among networks.

 

  • Organise awareness raising campaigns including promotion of telecentres and knowledge hubs

 

  • Analyse business plans for network members – Business plans to include revenue generation models, assessing strengths and weaknesses of the particular network. It was agreed that national stakeholders would drive the process, while the regional networks would add value through bringing best practices from different regions.

 

  • Play a catalytic role in developing partnerships with countries, which do not have national networks of telecentres.
  • Develop criteria for membership of regional networks and also develop modalities for working relationships with national focal points.

Activities done by APTN Secretariat

Taking the first step, APTN Secretariat has created a web portal: http://www.a-ptnetwork.ning.com for the purpose of knowledge sharing among its member networks. All telecentre networks in the Asia Pacific region are encouraged to join and actively participate in this knowledge sharing platform.

Further, APTN co-organised a workshop on resource mobilisation for telecentre organisations in Asia-Pacific on 1st of December 2009 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. ‘The Resource Mobilisation Workshop for Telecentre Networks in Asia’ was jointly organised by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Asia Pacific Telecentre Network (APTN). The workshop was successfully conducted. Its participants included network leaders, telecentre knowledge workers and stakeholders from all over Asia. The one day programme consisted of three innovative segments, which were organised and titled as ‘Telecentre Idol Competition’, ‘Telecentre Open Clinic’, and ‘Telecentre Talk Show’.


APTN intends to play a vital role among the existing ICT access points/telecentres, as these empower the poor and disadvantaged by providing knowledge or services according to the needs of the communities they serve


Future Plans of APTN: Strengthening National Telecentre Networks

With the recommendations and agreements made during the ‘Regional Workshop for Knowledge hubs and Networks in Asia Pacific Region- Next Step’ held in Bangkok, Thailand on 10-11 December 2009, APTN is in the process of developing its initial work plan for the first half of 2010.

APTN intends to play a vital role among the existing ICT access points/telecentres, as these empower the poor and disadvantaged by providing knowledge or services according to the needs of the communities they serve. During the meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, it was reiterated that these telecentres and networks were the direct means to reach marginalised and poor communities due to their proximity to the people and the areas they serve.

The Participants were of the view that easy access to these access points/centres and affordable services, programmes specifically tailored to the poor and marginalized groups make them more effective and sustainable. Therefore, APTN is expecting to come up with special projects where it can address and empower the poor and marginalised societies with the benefits of ICT.

Further APTN hopes to work with ICT access points/networks to bring opportunities for women to become entrepreneurs as well as catalysts for development and also assume leadership role in the local community. In many countries in the Asia pacific region, women’s  associations had been using  telecentres as meeting places, training centres and tools to reach other women towards raising awareness around large spectrum of issues, such as, health, education, social issues, disaster preparedness, economic activities, among others. As recommended by the Bangkok, Thailand workshop, APTN will undertake the below mentioned activities with the intention of  providing better ICT services through the knowledge hubs and networks:

 

  • Establishing a telecentrepedia
  • Collaborating with the “telecenter.org” Foundation and others to define its telecentre contents.

 

  • Contributing ideas for the book on ’1000 ideas to make telecentres work’

 

  • Working on ‘Asia Pacific Telecentre Review’ (APTR)

 

  • Publishing a ‘telecentre best practices book’.

 

  • Using the available resources like, the telecentre academy, and material developed in countries like the Philippines for capacity building of telecentre operators and users
  • Working on on-line and off-line  training and the need to localise training materials to suit country specific conditions and environment.


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