Success of Telecentres in Brazil – Deeshaa

11 July, 2005 at 16:29 Leave a comment

[via] David A. Wheeler Travelogue. 6th International Free Software Conference (FISL 6.0) in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

The combination of a government changing its own internal structure to widespread use of OSS/FS, plus telecenters that use OSS/FS, mean that there’s a vast number of people who are already familiar with OSS/FS, and comfortable using it. Very interesting indeed. And I was very glad to hear the stories about people who started from nothing, were given a small starting help, and are now on their feet and helping others.

But those only describe the environment — not what happened. Part of the answer seems to be in their experience with ‘telecenters’ as a way to help the poor. The cities of Porto Alegre and Sao Paolo separately decided to start ‘telecenter’ programs to provide computer access to the poor (though the cities did consult with each other as each learned lessons). There were definitely problems at first; according to some, early efforts just plopped a center in an area and left the community to figure out what to do (which often led to disappointing results).
But after some teething pains, they’ve had remarkable successes. In Sao Paulo, they have about 200 centers, each with 20 computers, all running OSS/FS (using the Linux Terminal Server project results, driving the costs way down); one person estimates these 200 centers reach 700,000 people. Kids can only use them if they do well in school (encouraging school participation), and they’re really community centers where there are rooms to learn dancing, reading and writing, and so on. Adults can use the centers to print their business cards, send resumes, and so on, so that they can begin their own businesses or get a job.

They’ve had more success by first working with the communities to find out what they need, and then specializing the center to that community. I heard lots of great stories; for example, in one poverty-striken inner-city community, its leaders noted that they had few resources, but the local kids loved to make music in the street. So their center specialized and became a music recording studio (all using OSS/FS, best as I understand it). They’ve already produced a CD (through a lot of people working together), with more on the way. This not only brings in money, but possibly even more importantly, there’s a sense of pride in that community that was not there before. The point of these centers is simply to help people help themselves. The telecenters have to be managed and self-supported by the community; it’s not a continuous giveaway. And they’re built using an approach they call a “public-private partnership”.
In more recent Brazilian elections, a new Brazilian president was elected from the same party as the leaders in Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre. He thought these telecenters worked well, so now they’re spreading around Brazil.

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Entry filed under: Life-Theories, Projects, WebXP.

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