PLANWEL is an NGO in Pakistan that is short for Planning Professionals for Social Welfare Works. It was founded in 1990 by a group of local technology and business experts for the purpose of promoting basic computer literacy, information sharing, health care, e-government, e-commerce, and e-learning through telecentres, or what they call community access points. Telecentres are public places that provide access to Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) which help promote development for populations who otherwise would not have such access.
In the past 20 years or so, PlanWel has collaborated with several foreign entities such as Utah State University, Kansas State University, American Distance Learning Consortium, International Telecommunication Union, USAID, and World View Foundation – Malaysia. To date, PlanWel has contributed to the formation of over 400 telecentres all over Pakistan. PlanWel’s mission statement is, “Bringing Technology to the People, Building Technology Based Communities, and Technology for the People and Run by the People”. PlanWel is one of the many examples of telecentre programs that are working to improve lives by providing access to ICTs.
Generally, telecentres are located in rural areas of the developing world. According to the Telecentre.org Foundation, there are over 87,513 telecentres in over 53 countries. In this interview, the PlanWel CEO, Shahab Afroz Khan, talks about how to build a telecentre.
What do the telecentres look like?
“In fact, they are not at all fancy. In a rural setting, it would be a one-room to two-room building with some space for housing 5-10 PCs’s at the maximum, one Printer, Scanner, Fax Machine. Internet connectivity through Fiber lines – DSL (In Pakistan we have a very well connected Fiber Optic network). For power, if it’s not on the National Grid, we have it by solar energy. One teacher would teach the students – Typically he is the Owner/ Manager, who would earn his living through this.
The only missing element – AND most important is content in the local language – which we are still looking for and working on.”
What advice would you give on how to build a telecentre community?
“First of all, motivate the community and tell them what they are missing: Information about business, citizen’s information, money transactions, sharing of information, and computer literacy. Once they are convinced that there is a need to open up a telecentre, they need to try and get some type of support from important local people, such as a landlord, local government representative, and the like. This is important because, in many countries like in Pakistan, you must have local support.
It is also absolutely necessary to have your own building – one room of 14ft X 10ft would be sufficient. You cannot run a telecentre on rented space. Next, locate some donors to give you the hardware – this is the easiest part as the donor would like his name to be advertised – which you can do with some caution.”
– Maria Caluag
Source: PLANWEL, Telecentre.org