Publication Date

2009

Abstract

In this study, I explored the question, “How can the impact of telecenters be enhanced to better promote sustainable development in Egypt?” The Government of Egypt has invested a great deal of resources into technological development over the last few decades, creating fertile ground for Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-based initiatives. Worldwide, telecenters have emerged as a promising model for utilizing ICTs to promote sustainable community-based development. After a successful pilot project in the late 1990’s, Egypt launched a massive initiative (the IT Clubs program) to establish telecenters throughout the country. The program grew exponentially during its first several years, but quickly began to decline after withdrawal of government support. The community-level achievements of the pilot project were not successfully replicated, and the long-term viability of the IT Clubs has become a serious concern. Their existence is now threatened, following a general pattern among telecenters worldwide as political support and public funding begin to wane. With this study, I sought to understand why the IT Clubs are failing, and to determine what can be done to enhance their contribution to sustainable development in Egypt.

Utilizing an approach based on principles from the field of community informatics, I designed the research methodology to be part-quantitative and part-qualitative. My goals were to conduct a broad-based assessment of the state of knowledge and research concerning telecenters worldwide, present a comprehensive summary of the development of telecenters in Egypt, summarize and synthesize best practices and recommendations for telecenter design from the existing literature, frame the Egyptian context as it pertains to telecenters, and offer recommendations to inform the design of new telecenters in Egypt. In order to accomplish this, I conducted interviews with six individuals responsible for implementing the IT Clubs program, made site visits to three telecenters in Egypt, and reviewed approximately two hundred documents pertaining to telecenters around the world.

What I discovered is that the impact telecenters have on their communities is directly linked to the sustainability of the telecenters themselves: in short, the success of a telecenter depends primarily upon how well it is able to meet the needs of its local community. By shifting emphasis away from providing access points for ICTs towards promoting effective use of ICTs, telecenters not only make a greater contribution to the socio-economic development of their communities, but also better ensure their own survival.

Disciplines

Business Administration, Management, and Operations

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