1.1.2 What’s in a name?

Community ICT centers are referred to in a range of ways: telecenters or telecottages, public Internet access centers, village knowledge centers, infocenters, community technology centers, community multimedia centers, multipurpose community telecenters, common/citizen service centers and school-based telecenters.

Public perception of what a community ICT center should include may depend on how it is named. Centers that are essentially public access points may not be regarded as appropriate places for women and girls in some countries or cultures, and so how they are described is quite important. For instance, using a term like café might discourage women in Cameroon from using the local cyber-café because women do not generally frequent cafes. Calling it a boutique is more likely to attract women, so cyber-boutique is a term used in Douala by centers looking to attract clientele from both sexes. Similarly, using the term information center might have a more welcoming and inclusive public optic.

Fact of interest: Telecenter terminology in India
 In India, the concept of a telecenter as a public access model for rendering various services has become a movement. Telecenters are providing a range of services and addressing many needs through education, farmer information or government-to-citizen services. They are referred to as telecottages, telecenters, information kiosks, e-Sewa kendras (electronic service centers), e-Chaupals (electronic gathering places), e-Haats (e-markets), village knowledge centers (VKCs), village resource centers (VRCs), Mahiti Manthana, community information centers (CICs), common service centers (CSCs), community multi-media centers (CMCs), etc. The wide-ranging terminology may seem confusing, but it reflects the plurality and diversity of the telecenter movement.

As telecommunication infrastructure has grown globally, so have community ICT centers. One organisation that works to support and improve telecenters globally is Telecenter.org. It has created and supported hundreds of networks and organizations that represent some 80,000 telecenters and close to 40 million telecenter users across the globe.1

User analysis research consistently shows that, in most countries, Internet use is highest for those less than 24 years old and usage decreases with age. However, this trend is expected to become less salient over time and eventually disappear as younger generations grow up with the Internet and maintain usage into adulthood.2

1Telecentre.org was founded in 2005 by Canada’s International Development Research Centre, Microsoft and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (http://www.telecentre.org/notes)

2International Telecommunication Union. (2010). Measuring the Information Society. (http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/publications/idi/2010/Material/MIS_2010_without%20annex%204-e.pdf)