Complete Autonomy in the Decision-Making Process

Although decision-making has already been referred to as a possible element of participation, it is important to emphasize this when referring to the acceptance of a project. It is essential that the community be able to make decisions that define the access center's direction and characteristics, including planning, design, operation, resource administration, monitoring and evaluation. In this, it can be ensured that the access center is going to respond to a specific reality and context -- to the needs of the community -- and will adapt to the necessary changes when required.

In addition to encouraging the community to make decisions about its own access center, co-responsibility of those involved in the project is recommended. This must begin with the fundamental decision of whether to introduce the project into the community or not. Information is a key ingredient in the decision-making process, and the community should have full access to it. By the same token, reflection on the decisions taken should be promoted. It is important that, within the community, there is clarity about the potential impacts of such projects -- both positive and negative -- and that the community can generate its own strategies for dealing with them.

This point is particularly relevant with respect to connecting schools. Connecting a school does not necessarily imply taking it to a community, as indicated in the Module 1 part 4 of Connect a School - Connect a Community. The expansion of Internet service to the community can occur in two ways: (1) the creation of community access centers within schools, or (2) the use of access centers as nodes for the deployment of connectivity to other areas of the community or to other communities.

The creation of such centers at schools, or the use of them as development nodes, requires the definition of protocols that allow a joint administration of the operational space. Many access centers installed in schools designed to provide a service to the community never do so, precisely because during their planning and implementation there was no plan as to how they would accomplish that task.

Schools are spaces normally closed to the community, for obvious reasons of securing the facilities and student safety. Thus, they are not wholly public spaces, and that is why the process of making decisions with regard to the manner in which the school will provide connectivity to the community is impossible to ignore.