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Telecentres spur policy change in Mozambique


Imagine an entire country with only one Internet service provider and barely 100 users. That was Mozambique in the late 1990s. Fast forward to 2010 and you find a country that is committed to taking its place in the global information society. It began a decade ago when the Government of Mozambique set out to establish a nationwide community network of "telecentres" that provide community access to computers.

IDRC funded the first pilot centre in 1999, and then the development of a network of centres, working through local community organizations. Today the centres not only provide computer services, they also operate community radios, becoming community multimedia centres. Project leader Polly Gaster, at Eduardo Mondlane University's Informatics Centre, recalls that initially training was a major issue. "Each organization chose two or three people to receive basic training, and then they would train others. People are very keen to learn – they have realized that they need the skills in order to get a job or continue their studies."

The champion of telecentres, Venâncio Massingue, a long-time IDRC partner in the area of information and communication technology (ICT) and now Minister of Science and Technology, was one of the architects of the country's ICT policy in 2000 — the first in Africa. Today, nationwide access to these technologies is one of the three pillars of the government's science and technology policy. This is reflected in the country's 10-year science, technology, and innovation strategy that makes expanding community multimedia centres a priority. Gaster says the telecentres are also key to a nationwide debate calling for greater civil society involvement in developing a new ICT policy "that takes into account the last 10 years of technological evolution on one hand and Mozambique's evolution on the other."

Public access to information and communication technologies is now firmly on the national agenda. The early visibility and results of telecentres has helped.

Polly Gaster, Informatics Centre, Eduardo Mondlane University