27 oct. 2004

Information and Communication System for Rural Development

By: Azabache, Carlos; Bossio, Jorge; Guillén, Jesús
The Department of Cajamarca, located to the north of the Peruvian andes, is the third Peruvian department in population order with more than 1'300,000 inhabitants. It is the department with greater proportion of rural population (75,3% against 29,9% of national average) and one of the main five affected by the extreme poverty. The migration from the field to the city and other regions of the country is the highest of the country, reason why Cajamarca progressively loses the best of its human resources, without registering a reduction of the rates of population increase.
The educative levels in Cajamarca are of the lowest of Peru. The average of illiteracy at national level in 1993 was of 12,8% whereas in Cajamarca was of 27.2%, which locates it in the fourth place in illiteracy between the 24 departments in which Peru is divided.
In Cajamarca the road network is deficient and makes difficult the communication within the department. Only the highway that goes from the city of Cajamarca to the coast is asphalted, the rest are affirmed dirt roads, that they force to that a trip of approximately 60 km is made in three or more hours, or than simply does not exist road interconnection between many towns to the interior of Cajamarca. This reality makes difficult the circulation and therefore it also limits the cultural and information interchange, centralizing this one in the city of Cajamarca.
In the field of the telecommunications the arrival of the telephone service to numerous capitals of district have been important progresses in the last years. The following picture shows how in very few years a radical change of the availability of services the department has taken place.

Cajamarca................ 1998....... 2004 (jun) ....... Density
Fixed lines ................13,698.......22,927 ............. 1.57%
Movile lines .................0.............45,743 ............ 3.12%
Public payphones.......865............2,033 ............ 0.14%
ADSL connections......0................1,194 ............ 0.09%

Cajamarca counts with important natural resources to explode, like the gold operation by the mining company Yanacocha, as well as great tourist opportunities and one recent tendency has noticed towards the diversification of the production, including manufactures and processing of foods. With respect to the public administration and government, it is possible to be noticed the tendency towards a progressive distribution of power and local functions to the mayors and other authorities.
Those changes are generated mainly at different speeds, conditioned by greater or smaller presence of local markets, existence of communication routes, proximity of the urban centers, etc. On that matter, it is important to remember that in spite of the found problems, that are part of the evolution of the markets, a significant potential of economic development in the zone, perceived through the commercial relations and production.
This project consists of the implementation of rural information centers (Infocentros), in six towns of the province of Cajamarca. These centers are part of a rural information system designed specially on the base of the necessities of the populations benefited connected by satellite links. The access allows the interactive communication with the Coordinating Center located in the City of Cajamarca through Internet. Each infocentro counts with a public telephone and a radio transmitter, thus offering services that contribute to the sustainability.
The Project Pilot “Information system for the Rural Development”, is a complement of the Infodes Project developed by ITDG with support of the World Bank, by means of which it adds the component of telecommunications and the development of the qualification programs and methodologies of management, required for the sustainability of the infocentros.
The INFODES Telecentre is a non-profit institution, that promotes, offers and facilitates the access to a great variety of information through Internet, which can be obtained through search engines about subjects, published authors, titles or information in general. Nowadays the Infocentros are the base of a new regional project denominated Urban-Rural Information system.
Overview of the project’s targets and objectives
The general mission of the project is to contribute to the sub regional development of Cajamarca, increasing the productive capacity of the small rural producers and improving the level of management of the local governments through facilitating the access to telecommunications and the provision of information.
The targets are:

  • To implement a local system for information provision to small producers and authorities;
  • Develop a methodology for the design and deployment of information systems for rural areas in Peru or Latin America;
  • Develop a midterm sustainable business model for telecommunication services in rural areas.
  • Monitor and systematization of the pilot experience of application of the business model of rural telecommunications in order to present/display detailed information of its results that serve to establish replication criteria.

Project history
The Infodes Project began in July of 1998 after being approved the finance component in charge of the World Bank. The predicted duration was of 30 months, after that was projected to transfer the system and its equipment to a partnership of local organizations.
The actions began with a base-line study by the end of 1998. The initial months also coincide with an electoral process: the election of mayors for period 1999-2002, who assumed their functions on January, that generated a delay of the coordination until beginnings of February of 1999.
The first problem found was the lack of suitable infrastructure and information services to serve the community according to the existing necessities, as well as to the profile of the users and almost the nonexistence of computer services. For that reason the project added a component of equipment and qualification. The project trusted on the incorporation of local human resources through the agreements with the local government and the communities, which did not turn out to be as easy as it was expected.

First Stage: the building blocks
Two years after the proposal has been approved by the World Bank, the technical specifications and infrastructure needs were different. In the city of Cajamarca it began to improve the telephone service, appeared Internet for domestic use, although in most of the localities farmers the deficiency of telephones stayed.
During this first stage contacts and agreements with communities and institutions became real. As a result of this work the Municipality of Cajamarca acceded to share a space of the Provincial Public Library and the Internet access, in addition to the commitment to provide personnel to complement the information services. As a counterpart, the project would install its Coordinating Center there, equip better the internet cabin, give technical support to the personnel of the municipality and would support the process of computerization of the Public Library. That was the fundamental agreement of the project.
At the same time, the team of the project had made the necessary adjustments for the creation of four information centers in communities near the city. The visits made to the institutions with the purpose of constituting a network of local partners gave good results, several leaders respond to the call and some announced that they would assume concrete responsibilities in a process to create a powerful alert network in relation to the urban and rural development supplying useful data to all the department. In some cases these new partners offered to provide inputs to the services like videos or technical records. Until that moment the perspective of the project could not be better.
In November of 1999, few months from the agreement signed with the Municipality, the project team verified that due to the change of the municipal administration the established commitments were not fulfilled and there was no political will to fulfill them, although the personnel of the Public Library had itself it jeopardize with the project and its aims. It was inevitable to cancel the agreement.
The team crude experienced the adverse conditions of the context. Without telephony there was no network and the possibilities of creating it were out of the reach of theirs hands.
The project decided then to explore possibilities of expanding the communication infrastructure in Cajamarca so that the Information centers of the project could access to the Internet and simultaneously to offer services of telephony.
ITDG decided to develop pilot project of Rural Telephony with originating resources of the Investment Fund for Rural Telecommunications (FITEL). This project allowed that 6 Information centers counted on Internet and Telephony services, but also looked for to reinforce the information services and to create a business model for rural telecommunication where the public investment is combined efficiently.

Second stage: new beginning
At the beginning of the year 2000 the initial scheme of organization had been redesigned trying to create a articulated network of Information centers of different hierarchy.
After the agreements where broken with the Provincial Municipality of Cajamarca, the Coordinating Center had settled at ITDG offices and therefore the project had to develop its own capacity to connect itself to the Internet and to offer the predicted information services.
On March of 2000, an internal evaluation was made and the main problems were examined: internal coordination, infrastructure scope, deficiency in the communities for the electronic intelligence, weakness in the connection with the interests of the communities, the illiteracy and the importance of the oral tradition, insufficiency of personnel, among others.

As a consequence of the evaluation the following chances had occurred:

Reconstruction of scope: concentrating itself in localities of the Municipality of Chanta Alta, Huanico, Combayo and of the district of Llacanora.

The qualification formula let be restricted to selected promoters of each community and it projected to communal team.
After a short period of time the records of the monitoring system shows the following results:

  • Improved relations with communities
  • The capacity building process has been started for promoters and communitarian groups.
  • The first promoter’s meeting “Toribio Quispe Sallo”
  • Launch of the oral tradition program
  • The first contest “farmer’s Knowledge” has been deployed with good results
  • The institutional basis has been established.
  • The Infocentro´s resources has been organized.
  • Three Infocentros has been launched in Chanta Alta, Huanico and Llacanora.

The information leaders
ITDG had had from the beginnings of the last decade a successful experience in several places of Peru with promotional farmers in the intention to facilitate the development of technological innovations. The idea was to organize a team of communal leaders in relation to the aims of the project in rural communities. Actually it happened that several of the existing promoters in other projects use to play the role of communicators without losing their original condition.
The First Meeting of Promoters of Information was an opportunity to show the existence of the leading groups and the possibilities of the use of Internet to ampler sectors of the rural population. Other important activity of this stage was the inaugurations of the Information centers in Llacanora (Municipality) and the communities of Huanico and Chanta Alta as multipurpose information services. Months later these places would benefit from the Telephony project (FITEL).

Third Stage: Between the Agreement for the sustainability and the definition of the integral model of information and rural - urban communication
In the first months of the 2001 it had been obtained the consolidation of the interinstitutional coordination and the social agreement for the impulse of a strategic proposal of provision of information with development aims.
From the establishment of which the producers have information valuable to solve two important questions in the agricultural plane, that is to say, the seeds and the plagues, and which they handle practical mechanisms to take control opportunely of the pertinent information, proposed the fundamental recommendation for a talk replicable model that implies to recognize the local information systems, that is to say, the way the farmers search information and get solutions for their own problems by themselves using social spaces: meetings between producers in the markets, between the family, interchanges with the migrants and foreigners, the owners of the chemical provisions and the retailers, etc.
The team perceived the beginning of a different way in the project, not only by the entrance to the interinstitutional agreement but because it had been gotten to touch with thoroughness a tactically important point: the accumulated knowledge, the capacity to produce and to scatter information that the populations most isolated and excluded from the andes have.

Problems and lessons learned

To incorporate new technology in a steep form is equivalent to invade the minds and to colonize the cultural spaces. It is imperative, therefore, that the external intervention is developed with the support of the local actors.

  • The technology works when it fits with the vision and interests of people, this is a fundamental condition so that they take control of the project.
  • The promoters of the communities are the true channels of the information. There is recommendable to form small teams by community with his coordinators chosen by themselves, who will be in charge to animate and to sensitize.
  • The learning process can be immediate if the connection with people´s interests is obtained, and it is made from a real experience and arrives through a visual format.
  • The video is closest to the traditional forms of qualification in the rural sector: the experience and the example.
  • The women accede less to the information centers not only by limitations in the reading but by little interest that to them the existing supply provokes, for that reason is necessary to design services that are adapted for its necessities.

Organizational model
Legal owner
Even considering that the Infocentro belongs to all the community, it was necessary to identify an organization or institution who can represent it with the purpose of transferring the property of the goods and equipment of the period of 2 years of operation of the project.
In the towns where a municipality exists, it was considered as much that it was the suitable institution, by its representativeness or because it is based on a legal frame that allows it to sign contracts, to receive transference of goods and any act that make is made official through a resolution that has law character.
Although through the regulations that accompany the model, there was necessary to establish clauses that guarantee that the mayor does not make bad use of the goods that are given to him and that contribute to the good operation of the Infocentro.

Local entrepreneur
Even though the legal owner has the property of the goods, he does not administer the service. The legal owner give their administrative rights in concession to a local entrepreneur. In order to select the local entrepreneur there was a public contest directed by the municipality but that counted on the observation and monitoring of the civil organizations.
Once chosen the local administrator, this one was committed to formalize its company, after which it would sign a contract of concession with the legal owner (municipality) by a period of one year. During this period it will have to present/display monthly financial information, it will take care of the equipment and the infrastructure that is in charge to him and will be able to renegotiate, according to the utilities, the amount assigned by the concession of the service.

Supervising board
This group represents the users of the service who guard because as much the legal proprietor as the local entrepreneur fulfills their functions with the purpose of obtaining a service of quality available for the community. In this board are involved the local actors in the development of their owns: local authorities, representing authorities of government, representing sectors of civil organizations, etc.

Model’s advantages

  • The business model shows the following advantages:
  • Local actors involvement in the whole process.
  • User empowerment by giving them the opportunity to participate in the system
  • Allow a capacity transfer process in order that is needed for midterm sustainability
  • Promote community involvement and commitment
  • Promote team work .

The stages for the transfer of the “endogenous model” allow that the population perceives that it is a process transparent and participative. Nevertheless the implementation of this model faced a series of problems:

  • There should be a long previous work related with agents preparation.
  • The model should be known by the main actors in order to get their commitment .
  • There should be enough meetings to explain the model to the authorities. The decision to be the “legal owner” should be taken by the municipality board. This is one of the main problems that the team have to face with.
  • In the majority of towns exists “groups of power” that are confronted. It is important to obtain the participation of all the groups to ensure to not have enemies at the beginning of the process.

Project sustainability

The project designed a diffusion and promotion campaign for the information services. The goal was to assure that the system was well-known and indeed used. Next to it the agreement with other regional institutions was considered as a decisive factor of sustainability to feed the system with excellent information and technical support according to the demand of the users. The main aspect would be the profit of commitments of counterparts under the form of agreements and partnership. In order to promote the system the project organized workshops and events to present the benefits of the information system.
One of the main goals should be that after 30 months the system can walk without the help of ITDG. This cannot happen without the building of a local market for information and communication goods and services.
The local entrepreneurs were trained to use all the infrastructure (internet, radio, libraries, etc) to explore new ways to serve the population.
Results reached by the learning process
The project contemplated the local authority (the mayor) as key ally. Investing in rural and always depressed areas generates the attention of the local authorities which facilitates the approach and the first steps.
As it is easy to suppose exist in the project successful and nonsuccessful cases of relations with the local authorities, even though the general balance sheet is positive, it is considered important to pay attention to the diversity and to the local organization it is constituted in a critical factor for the success.
Within the success factors we must indicate the approach to the local institutions, counting on with an authority that has initiative and that makes possible the work in a cooperative way (joint venture) and that the agreements taken with the authority are ratified by superior level of local government (town halls, assemblies, etc.)

Cooperation and involvement
It was fundamental to complement the efforts with projects that that were already implemented. This type of projects must be by nature complementary and its success were conditional to the capacity of cooperation and approach to other local institutions.
Obtain the commitment of other institutions with the project also contributes to the future sustainability of the initiative and can without a doubt help to a reduction of costs being avoided the duplicity of efforts and the confusion of the beneficiaries.
An important issue to consider is that working aside with the counterparts or partners encourages the capacity of negotiation with the local authorities and officials government.

Pilot platform
It was also learned that models applied in rural areas cannot be mattered and that this infrastructure must be taken as part of experimentation field. So that it is possible, as much the local institutions, authorities and settlers in general must recognize it like its own propriety and as an instrument that facilitates solutions to their concrete and daily problems.
By this way, a proper atmosphere for the development of electronic services is developed. So that the first aid posts experiment in the accomplishment of appointments and information sharing with other posts or the national hospitals; or the rural schools participate in programs of continuous education; or the students interchange experiences with other students of other schools whose professors promote the use of the technology; or the rural municipalities automate some administrative processes or simply they spread minutes of the meetings of faster way; or the citizen participation in the decisions of the provinces is fomented and until of the departments.
Once the platform is been consolidated, the experiment should be promoted by the local actors. Each pilot experience should be documented to be further replicated.

It has been recognized the importance of this factor in the overall success of the project. The message that should be transmitted uin a clear way is that technology is not the solution by itself but indeed is a good tool to help people solve the problems in the way the use to do it.
Which could be know is the results of the qualification and awareness in qualitative terms by the use of the infrastructure in support of the educative development and local SME´s, but also in quantitative terms, like can be demonstrated for example in the locality of Huanico where the telephone traffic generated in the infocentro is 3 to 4 times greater than in the closest town with telephone service with similar population characteristics.
Another idea that should be transmitted is that technology is subordinated to the people and that people is in control. In rural and very depressed areas the problem usually appears when consider the information technology as the salvation or the culprit of future problems.

Technologic convergence
A rural information system must know how to capture benefits from ICT convergence. This way we are able to cause that the rural communities become producers and disseminators of information of their experiences instead of solely consumers of other people's experiences. The convergence facilitates the generation of local content in diverse formats and that contributes to give voice to the marginalized ones.

Human and social development results
The project found unexpected results during the phases of implementation and development. One of these results was about the leaders in charge of the infocentros: all of them young people, even though the objective of the project did not consider an approach towards this sector. An gender approach had not been considered either, but was recognized soon as a very important issue because 2 infocentros are administered by women.
Another unexpected result does was related with the enforcement of human capacities (empowerment) and the self-esteem. Both factors generate a better access to sources of intelligence, communications and the local conscience of the technology as a potential dynamo for development.
Perhaps the most important repercussion has been the demonstration effect that was hoped to generate from this experience. This effect has facilitated the creation of a new project from July 2003 denominated Rural – Urban Information System, extending the reach of the network from Infocentros to 5 additional rural towns and consolidating a network of suppliers of economic and agricultural information in the region.
Regarding the use of the infrastructure, there is a noticeable difference between the facilities of these 6 places in contrast with others where neither there wasn’t work of awareness and training and where for that reason the appropriation of the technology is almost null.

Final remarks

  1. The experience exposed through the project has allowed to identify the aspects relative to the demand and the awareness process to develop aptitudes to recognize the importance of the instruments through the Infocentros. This way the population receives in addition to the installed infrastructure, the necessary training for its optimal advantage and application in their own socioeconomic conditions.
  • Additionally, the quality of the advantage in the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs), depend on the identification of the cultural and social deficiencies of the sociocultural surroundings. In such sense, the experience of the pilot project will allow us to talk back this endogenous model to other localities where the Peruvian government wants to promote the development of new telecommunication services for rural areas.

10 oct. 2004

Public Internet Access Points

Por Juan Fernando Bossio

In relation to access, it is becoming a common solution and public policy to establish public access points to internet (Macadar and Reinhard 2002; Saravia 2003). However, several projects from international funding institutions have simply installed ‘rooms with computers’ without taking care of local necessities, organisations, and context in general (Davidziuk 2002). Telecentres are sometimes seen as just PIAPs, and in that sense private-owned cyber cafes should be included (Proenza 2001).

Colle and Roman found that ‘telecentres’ does not mean the same to everyone, but they underlined that telecentres have in common the objective to contribute with social development (1999), as is supported by the community telecentres movement (Delgadillo, Stoll et al. 2002; Gómez and Casadiego 2002; Stoll and Menou 2003). From that perspective, telecentres should therefore combine access to ICTs with a varied and flexible use, defined by the involved community (Assumpção, 2002). The telecentres could also bridge the gap between deployment context and design context, taking the role of intermediary and making ICTs usable by the poorest people (Heeks 2002). This intermediation would include creation and dissemination of knowledge or appropriate information, and development of local capabilities (Madon 2000).

Community telecentres
“Community telecentres represent an experiment in using digital technologies as tools for human development within a community. The stress here is on the social use and appropriation of the technological tools and the information that can be accessed through them, as part of a project for social change aimed at improving living conditions. Technology and connectivity are important but not sufficient conditions for the proper functioning of community telecentres, and the achievement of their development objectives.” (Delgadillo, Stoll et al. 2002: 8)

The community telecentres movement promotes community-driven projects, encouraging participation of different actors (Fors and Moreno 2002; Gómez and Casadiego 2002; Stoll and Menou 2003). This vision of telecentres understands that social impacts are more than simple income improvements, and include more organisational, political or psychological impacts.

Telecentre sustainability
One of the problems faced by telecentres through the world is their long-term sustainability. Following the ‘mainstream’ discourse of international agencies, sustainability is mostly conceptualised as just or mainly financial sustainability, leading to the affirmation that “the development impact of a telecentre is thus a very important consideration, even if it is a dimension that is distinct from sustainability” (Proenza 2001: 2). However, the literature also underlines that the telecentres’ ability to continue living (sustainability) includes social, political and technological in addition to financial (Delgadillo, Stoll et al. 2002; Stoll and Menou 2003).

Political sustainability refers to “the importance of securing a stable regulatory framework that will protect, promote and support community telecentres and their activities, with special attention to the specific needs of the poorest sectors” (Stoll and Menou 2003: 4). Technological sustainability refers to the need to ensure that telecentres would be able to update their technologies in future scenarios. Experience has shown that political, technical and social sustainability help to achieve financial sustainability, whilst the reverse has not been observed (Stoll and Menou 2003).

Toward Telecentre Social Sustainability
Here is argued that telecentres would be able to have social sustainability if they fit into the socio-cultural context of the community. This could be done through the participation of community from the beginning of the project, ensuring respect towards and promotion of local/traditional information systems, commitment of community based organisations (CBOs) and NGOs, understanding of local characteristics, consideration of differences within the communities (gender, culture, ageing), empowerment of marginalised groups, sharing goals with the community and empathy with local people (Delgadillo 2004). Social sustainability is achieved if people from the community feel empowered by the telecentre and assume it as a physical common[1], not just as an internet service point(Stoll and Menou 2003).
[1] Physical are the material manifestation of social commons (e.g. respect, solidarity) including places or assets for the common wealth as libraries, parks or hospitals. Being assets their value is more durable than services.
Extracto del documento Social sustainability of telecentres from the viewpoint of telecentre operators: a case study from Sao paulo, Brazil disponible en internet