centres and centers

On Centres and Centers:  Telecentres and CTCs

In almost any discussion of technology and social change, especially as the welfare and well-being of disadvantaged populations of all kinds are concerned, community technology centers (CTCs), or, as they’re commonly referred to in most parts of the world outside the U.S., telecentres, play a central role.  Whether or not Internet connectivity, computers and other emerging technology are readily available in the home or via a growing range of mobile devices — a state of affairs not at all common for much of the world — physical centers that provide access, training, and support are a basic requirement for most people’s ability to use technology effectively.  In every country’s consideration of its social and economic development, especially as it involves consideration of those not served by market forces, public policy has paid at least some lip service and attention to the matter of physical centres as well as developing infrastructure.

Beyond this, the presence of vital community media and technology centers in an area is one of the key indicators of the overall vitality of that community, an indication that the community, its organizations and its institutions are developing their social, political, and institutional capacities as well as their ability to be responsive to those most needing support.

It’s an extraordinary development over the last two decades — the creation and spread of a whole new concept in community institutions.  Before the 1990’s there were literally a handful of such centers; today there are demonstrably hundreds of thousands of them across the globe. A new institution has made its appearance on the public infrastructure stage.  The following selections from the Journal of Community Informatics (JoCI) and elsewhere provide a case study introduction to them.

To access any of the following JoCI articles, go to ci-journal.net and enter the author’s name in the search box. You will then be given the option of linking to the article abstract or its full PDF or HTML version.

  1. “My Experience with the Sengerema [Tanzania] Community Multimedia Centre,” Felician Bakoya Ncheye, Vol 2, No 3 (2006) Special Issue: Telecentres
  2. “The Impacts of Community Telecenters in Rural Colombia,” Fabiola Amariles, Olga P. Paz, Nathan Russell, and Nancy Johnson, Vol 2, No 3 (2006) Special Issue: Telecentres
  3. “Community Democratization of Telecommunications Community Cooperatives in Argentina: The Case Of Telpin,” Susana Finquelievich, Graciela Cecilia Kisilevsky, Vol 1, No 3 (2005)
  4. “Looking Critically at ICT4Dev: The Case of Lincos,” Manne Granqvist, Vol 2, No 1 (2005)
  5. “Youth Interns and The Strategic Deployment of ICTs for Public Access,” Rachel Gurstein, Susan Pell, Vol 2, No 3 (2006) Special Issue: Telecentres
  6. “Latin American Community Telecenters: ‘It’s a long way to TICperary,'” Michel J. Menou, Karin Delgadillo Poepsel, Klaus Stoll, Vol 1, No 1 (2004)
  7. “Rethinking Telecentre Sustainability: How To Implement A Social Enterprise Approach – Lessons From India And Africa,” Meddie Mayanja, Vol 2, No 3 (2006) Special Issue: Telecentres
  8. “Trapped in the Digital Divide: The Distributive Paradigm in Community Informatics,” Virginia E. Eubanks, Vol 3, No 2 (2007)

Selections from the Community Technology Review as linked below (to access ComTechReview in general, see the CTR archives).

  1. “Laundering Extreme Approaches to the Challenge of Diversity” by Andrea Kimmich-Keyser, summer 1994.
  2. “Playing to Win and the Community Computing Center Movement” manifesto by Peter Miller, summer 1994.
  3. “The CTCNet Start-Up Manual,” spring-summer 1997, and other pieces by and about Playing to Win and CTCNet founder Antonia “Toni” Stone.
  4. “Community Cable Access and New Media Centers” by George Preston, Dirk Koning, and Barry Forbes, fall 1995.
  5. “The Austin Free-Net and East Austin Media Lab” by Sue Beckwith, spring 1997.
  6. “Special Pittsburgh Conference Issue,” spring 1997 and follow-up ’97 Conference Report by Steve Cisler, winter 1998.
  7. The Corporation and the Digital Divide” by Peter Miller, winter 2002-03.
  8. Current CTC resources: from telecentre.org to DexCon 2010.

A commentary containing perspectives, analyses, and lessons involving these sixteen selections from JoCI and ComTechReview can be found in the author’s second chapter of his dissertation “Political Theory as an Avocation: Community Technology and the Prospects for Democracy in America,” an analysis that was updated with new hyperlinks in October 2011.


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