2.4.2 Financing the ICT Community Center – capital and start-up costs
An APC study, Unbounded Possibilities: Observations on sustaining rural information and communication technology (ICT) in Africa,20 studied two different telecenters in Tanzania. One promoted the idea of enterprises "bubbling up," given the right environment, and the other was modeled more on the approach that economically poor communities require a "'big push" -- i.e., big projects and big changes. The report suggests that both approaches are valuable, although the "bubbling up" approach could lead to more sustainable ICT development.
The first case study looks at the Family Alliance for Development and Cooperation (FADECO), a small association based in a small town, close to the Burundi and Uganda borders, that works to provide information resources that help families improve their living standards. Via various small grants, the organization set up a small telecenter with a wireless network. The center came about mainly through trial-and-error experimentation by a self-taught technologist, and it receives no third-party funds. The process of learning by doing, without active assistance, led to a deeper understanding about self-sufficiency.
The second case study looks at Sengerema, a donor-led rural telecenter in northeastern Tanzania that is housed in a purpose-built building boasting a conference room, a server room, an e-training lab, an Internet cafe, offices, and a learning room. While it is, according to the author, sustainable in general terms, it relies on continual third-party funding. The report concludes that, although both case models are valuable, the FADECO entrepreneurial approach has the potential to be vastly more scalable. But there has been little emphasis on the economic design of this type of telecenter. The development of institutions to support such enterprises could lead to much better, and more truly sustainable, rural ICT development.