It is widely recognised that shared access points known generically as ‘telecentres’ are, at the present time, the only practical way to deliver basic ICT services to people living on the wrong side of the digital divide. This is especially relevant to Pacific Island communities, and it is against this background that a vibrant telecentre movement is gaining momentum in the Pacific. Community-based telecentres are helping to connect island communities with each other, with their Diaspora communities and with the wider world.
Telecentres in the Pacific
In the Pacific, the term ‘telecentre’ is simply taken to mean a ‘community-based facility equipped with ICT tools’. They may range from community radio initiatives to low-bandwidth e-mail centres and networks, to high-bandwidth VSAT installations with networked computers and to (most often) some combination of these. Whatever the technical con-figuration may be, telecentres are globally directed towards community building, and they achieve this by facilitating increased access to empowering information and more effective and timely communication.
They may be located in a range of settings, such as dedicated premises, community centres, schools, community development organisations, or cooperative businesses.Using this broad definition, examples of Pacific telecentres include:
- Community radio initiatives in Papua New Guinea (PNG), Vanuatu and Fiji, each focussing on communication of important public-education messages such as HIV/AIDS;
- Standalone telecentres located in two community development organisations in PNG;
- Community-based telecentres in Maori communities of New Zealand;
- Networks of e-mail centres that communicate between remote communities through short-wave radio.
The People First Network of Solomon Islands is the best known telecentre initiative in the Pacific, with seventeen e-mail stations linked to an Internet caf