Although the ICT access points or telecentres or community e-centres have been in existence for many years in the development domain, knowledge appears to be still fragmented and underutilized for sustainable development in developing countries including countries in the Asia and the Pacific and region. Numerous stand alone ICT access points have not been able to adequately share information and experiences, especially among the poor and the disadvantage communities. This reduced the demand and sustainability of ICT access points to continue serving the poor. Hence, one of the challenges to make ICT access points more productive was to further develop the ICT access points into sustainable “knowledge hubs” with the involvement of governments, NGOs and other stakeholders. To address these challenges, the United Nations Development Account (UNDA) project entitled “ Knowledge networking through ICT access points for disadvantaged communities ”, was implemented by the five Regional Commissions of the United Nations: Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Africa, Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) in West Asia, Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean (ECLAC) in Latin America and Caribbean, and Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Asia and the Pacific.,The ESCAP in cooperation with ECE had implemented the project on behalf of the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of the Central Asia (SPECA) member countries. The main goal of this project was to empower the poor and disadvantaged communities through the transformation of existing ICT access points in selected countries into knowledge hubs of regional/global knowledge networks.
Activities organized during the period (2006-2008)
In order to understand the existing status of ICT access points and knowledge networks in Asia-Pacific and Central Asia (Central Asian countries), a preliminary review of existing community ICT access points was performed. T he review which was finalized in March 2007 identified best practices of ICT access points, Knowledge Hubs and existing Knowledge Networks. The review also recommended some focused areas of work for knowledge networks and network hubs and nodes.
Following the review, a regional stakeholders meeting of Asia-Pacific member countries was organized in Bangkok , Thailand in September 2007. A similar activity, regional stakeholders meeting of Central Asian member countries was organized in May 2008 in Baku , Azerbaijan . These meetings shared experiences and best practices on tele-centre operations and consulted the owners of tele-centre on the establishment of knowledge networks of tele-centres in the Asia-Pacific and Central Asian regions. The meeting held in Bangkok considered establishment of the Asia-Pacific tele-centre/ knowledge network with the support of the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) of Sri Lanka . Similarly at a meeting held in Baku , it was decided to establish the Central Asia telecentre network with the support of the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX). In both these cases supporting agencies offered to host the networks voluntarily.
Besides these achievements, a network consultative meeting for Asia-Pacific region was organized during the eASIA 2008 Conference, held in Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia in November 2008. The meeting discussed the activation of the networks and provided consultative, problem-solving support for identified issues to knowledge network members. This was followed by the launching of the “ Asia-Pacific Tele-centre Network ” which took place at the First Session of the Committee on Information and Communications Technology held in Bangkok from 19 to 21 November 2008.
Activities organized during the period (2009-2010)
During the year 2009, three workshops were organized. The first activity entitled “Regional workshop for knowledge hubs in Asia-Pacific region” was organized in Nanjing , China in September 2009. The workshop discussed ways and means to support the telecentres/knowledge hubs and national networks through information and knowledge sharing. The meeting outlined a number of recommendations for action by the Asia-Pacific Telecentre Network (APTN) as well as by the national governments and international/intergovernmental organizations including ESCAP. The second activity, Regional workshop for knowledge hubs in Central Asia and Neighbouring countries was organized in Dushanbe , Tajikistan in October 2009. During the meeting, participants discussed the issues related to telecentres and knowledge hubs and networks, shared their experiences, and recognized the importance of having a regional network of existing ICT access points (telecentres) for the purpose of: exchanging best practices and lessons learnt in the management of ICT access points; improving visibility of their ICT access points; sharing information with various partners and stakeholders; sharing of training materials and other capacity-building opportunities, among others. At this meeting the Eurasia Telecentre Network, which represents Central Asian countries and some European countries was also launched. The final activity for the year 2009, was the c onsultative meeting entitled “Regional workshop for knowledge hubs and networks – next step” which was held in Bangkok in December 2009. The workshop attempted to assess the (i) tangible benefits to rural communities through knowledge sharing and networking; (ii) progress of the transformation from community access points to knowledge hubs and new services offered; (iii) role of regional networks in value added services to communities; (iv) involvement of the poor and disadvantaged groups (including women) in accessing benefits from knowledge hubs/ networks; (v) effective resource mobilization for sustainable knowledge hubs/networks; (vi) role of public-private partnership and the community in sustainability of knowledge hubs/ networks; (vii) challenges in the process of establishing knowledge hubs/ networks.
Besides the above mentioned activities, project also produced number of knowledge products designed to improve the implementation and understanding of knowledge networks. Some of the key knowledge products produced under the project are:
i) Design and development of knowledge management strategy, ii) Norm, standard and contents for the ESCAP knowledge portal and information system, iii) articles to the telecentre magazine and iv) articles to the E-mPower global news letter.
In the second quarter of 2010, activity related to the regional evaluation of the project based on the feedback received from the knowledge-hubs/tele-centres will be conducted and the final global meeting is expected to be held either in Beirut or Addis Ababa in early June 2010.
Some of the key knowledge Products produced during the course of the United Nations development Account Project for Knowledge Networks for Disadvantaged Communities: