With only about 14,000 of the world’s estimated 170,000 community e-centres in Asia and the Pacific, the United Nations opened a two-day meeting today on establishing a regional knowledge network of the centres where people in the poorest and remotest areas, from farmers to students, gain access to computers and the Internet.
The meeting, hosted by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) at the UN Conference Centre in Bangkok, seeks to help poor communities to make the most out of these e-centres, and to learn from each other’s good experiences. The number of such centres is expected to jump 10-fold in the next five years.
UNESCAP Information, Communication and Space Technology Division Director Sivasankaran Thampi stressed that the meeting aims to enhance interconnection and collaboration.
Community e-centres, also known by different names such as telecentres or community information centres, have already helped people living in remote areas to get much needed information and knowledge to improve their lives.
Farmers, for examples, find crop market information to get better prices for their produce, students learn how to use computers to tap the vast source of information available in the Internet which places them in a better position in the job market, and women are empowered by the use of technology.
The proposed regional knowledge network of e-centres aims to improve their effectiveness as a development tool and to maximize limited resources by networking with each other to share experience and products, including content such as market information and training materials.
Around 30 representatives of UN agencies, information and communication technology ministries, telecentres and telecentre associations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are participating in the meeting which is part of a project on knowledge networking through access points for disadvantaged communities being implemented by the UN through its five Regional Commissions in Africa, Europe, West Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific.