Nick Tridea

Nick Tridea

I have spent the past few days doing research on traditional telecenter sustainability. By traditional, I mean telecenters that charge a small fee for offline (photocopying, mobile charging etc.) and online services (Internet access) to meet their costs. While the news is rather bleak, I have stumbled across some interesting sources that might be of use to others:

- International Development Research Centre (IDRC): Regional leader in information and communication for development (ICT4D), their website boasts a wealth of information. I found their 2005 report on Telecenters, Access and Development very interesting (a bit outdated, but still useful). This link provides insight into a variety of information and communication technology (ICT) projects they are supporting (mind you, the articles are for communication so a little too positive for objectivity).

- The Centre for Internet and Society – India: I stumbled across them while looking for successful models of telecenters/Internet centers increasing community income. I found this article “Information and Livelihoods (2009)” very interesting. It shows how Internet access in a fishing village was used to offer information on weather patterns to fishermen. Mortality rates were significantly reduced, income increased and users learned more about the Internet.

- Telecenter.org: The Facebook of telecenter/ICT4D professionals. Their forums are great, primarily because they have active moderators who keep the discussion going. They also send you updates on popular forums and topics, so you don't have to browse the site regularly. Check this one on local content development, i.e. how to make the Internet relevant to its users.

- Seacom Broadband Competition: The competition seems to be generating some interesting links and abstract thoughts on the role of broadband Internet in Sub-Saharan Africa. From the obscure - developing Africa's chess market - to the obvious – improving health care.

- A Guidebook For Managing Telecenter Networks: Great content on building virtual telecenter networks and developing the right content while making the whole thing financially sustainable.

A key lesson to be taken from this research is that content is priority. This is best summarized by Prof. Subbiah Arunachalam:

"The success lies in embedding ICTs in a holistic approach encompassing a diverse range of development initiatives. The trick is not to emphasise technology but to put people and their needs before technology. Sustainable livelihood approaches need to be people-centred, recognising the capital assets of the poor and the influence of policies and institutions on their livelihood strategies."

You will not have users paying to access Internet unless you put the information they need at their fingertips and in a variety of formats. With low literacy levels and inexperienced computer users, people need to be facilitated in their exploration of the Internet and motivated by regular online interaction, strong support networks, reliable Internet connections and content they can use to better their lives.

Tags: Uganda India ictblog SEACOM internet ICT4D 


Some kids are using computers or electronics before they can even talk in complete sentences. However, just because we start kids out ridiculously early on electronics, doesn’t mean they automatically grow up to know how to use the Internet properly.

From early elementary age, students are expected to write reports and in order to do that effectively, at least some research needs to be done. Research takes time so it’s no surprise that it is not high on a kid’s list. There is also a misconception that with a single keyword search, the only website they have to look at is Wikipedia, which many teachers don’t allow as a reliable source, and rightly so.

As kids get into upper grades, they need to use Internet more and more but yet it seems that schools are not spending any time teaching kids how to research effectively. Because there is so much information available, sometimes it can be overwhelming.

Kids are so used to being spoon-fed snippets of information that the thought of actually spending time researching and reading full-length articles is mind-boggling to most.

So what can parents and teachers do? Here are 10 Do’s and Don’ts to get you and your kids started.

DO a keyword search: Whether you like Google, Yahoo, Bing or any number of other search engines, start by doing a simple keyword search on the topic.

DON’T limit your keywords: One of the biggest mistakes I see people do is try one or maybe two keywords or phrases. If they don’t find anything on those tries, they think there isn’t any information on the subject. When I hear that statement, my only response is, “Are you kidding?!” You have the world at your fingertips. It’s a matter of knowing how to find information, which granted, is sometimes the hardest part.

DO rearrange your keywords: This may be obvious to some but it’s surprising how many people of all ages don’t think about trying different versions of the same keywords. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get the right results.

DO ask questions: As more and more information is stuffed online, chances are someone else has wondered or needed the same information as you do. Think of your online search as if you were asking a question to someone in real life. Be direct. Example: What year did the Battle of Gettysburg start?

DON’T skim for answers: Unless you are looking for one specific answer to a question, such as stated above, you are probably going to have to actually read at least a few articles to find enough information in order to write a report. That doesn’t mean just the first few lines either. You just might learn something else you didn’t know by reading full articles.

DO verify your sources: Checking and double-checking sources or information should be one of the first rules of research but too many kids are quick to take the first website or article they find as the ultimate source. Just because it’s on Internet, doesn’t make it factual either.

DO check related links: The beauty of Internet is that it is extremely easy to find related stories about a topic because of clickable links within articles. Even if you don’t use that information in your report, something you find on a side topic just might help in some other way.

DON’T just bookmark: A common mistake of many people is to just bookmark every site they find thinking they will read it or make notes later. Why do double work? If you find a website or article, take the time right away to read enough to know if it’s even worth bookmarking. Otherwise you end up with a long list of sites that you have to go through again later.

DON’T plagiarise: It is very tempting for people to just copy and paste information because it is so easy. After all, with so much information on Internet, how could a parent or teacher know that it wasn’t your words? Aside from simply doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, there are sites like TurnItIn that schools are using to check students for plagiarism. You wouldn’t want someone else taking credit for your words. Don’t do that to others.

DO take notes: Copying and pasting does come in handy for taking notes on a subject. While you are researching, open up a Word document. When you find sections of information from articles that are relevant, copy and paste them in the document to use as reference notes when you start writing your report. This can save you lots of time later on.

Research may not always be fun and it does take time, but it is a lot easier since the invention of Internet. 

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