By Yacine Khelladi - April
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These “lessons learned” are an outcome of both exchanges and collective pondering with colleague experts, and my experience in ICTs projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, at various levels, as in rural communities telecentre facilitation, projects design, implementation and evaluation, research on methodologies and capacity building, regional and public policies/strategies design, etc.
We hope these lessons from the “pilot”, “experimental”, small sized and local telecentre projects that emerged in the second half of the nineties, will be of help for the design and implementation, of the “massive” connectivity projects are being implemented in many Latin American and Caribbean countries.
I compiled them after a workshop organized by ITDG, held in Lima Peru in March 2002 and facilitated by Ricardo Gomez (IDRC). The are of course inspired by the works and discussions with many colleagues as: Karin Delgadillo, Maripaz Silva , Steve Cisler, Scott Robinson, Michel Menou, Carlos Afonso, Klaus Stroll, Daniel Pimienta , Kemly Kamacho, Jon Katz, etc]
1. Connectivity and technology are important but not enough nor sufficient to produce endogenous socioeconomic development nor to improve community’s living conditions.
2. There is no magic formula for a successful local ICT’s appropriation process . It depends on local specificities, and the designs should be relevant to local needs. There is no single successful model applicable to all, success depends on the capacity of adapting the model to best of local opportunities and synergies. No local plan/solution should be designed far away from the community. Top down solutions tend to be big failures
3. The ICT appropriation strategy have to be designed aiming to strengthen local social, economic and institutional existing capacities and advantages. The “virtual” must strengthen the “real” world potential. The ICT projects have to work with local organizations, build upon with what is already there.
4. There should be an permanent feedback from the local processes to the authorities in charge of the national ICT plan implementation, through appropriate channels, to permanently adapt strategies and support the local actions.
5. The financial sustainability issue is indeed critical but must be considered within the local development process sustainability, together with technical, social, political and cultural aspects. The infrastructure alone is not what has to be self-sustainable. Also, where the main objectives are bettering education, health services or local organizations capacity, the facility by it self can’t be self sustainable. Furthermore some specialists suggested that guarantying the “communications access rights” are a state obligation (as public security or education) especially when market driven initiatives can’t do it. But this is still a controversial issue.
6. Local telecentres operators are the strategic resource. They are not only the facility managers, they act as trainers, facilitators, motivators. It is essential that they receive special attention and training so they can develop a strategic vision of their role, raise community awareness, train for a productive ICT use and facilitate the appropriation process. Many experiences have show that women do better act as community facilitators in that sense.
7. Other critical tasks are training users with an awareness on the ICTs potential for their empowerment, support the development of locally relevant content, and the development of community and thematic communications networks.
8. It is important to integrate or traditional communication and information means, as community radios, papers, cultural activities with strong message component, informal communications networks, etc,
9. Addressing the gender issue goes beyond promoting equal access and use of the facilities. It demands developing specific strategies that answer specific women needs and integrate their specific vision and values to enable their empowerment.
10. Permanent monitoring, self evaluation and learning mechanisms must be implemented at the community level, assessing progress or failures towards improving community welfare objective’s
 concept definition by K. Camacho: successful adoption process of ICTs by an organization or a community goes by 3 steps: access, meaningful use and appropriation.