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EXPECTS MORE SUPPORT CICT: P500M goes to eCenters in 4 years

Posted on: February 25, 2009

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/infotech/view/20081118-172852/CICT-P500M-goes-to-eCenters-in-4-years

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 09:08:00 11/18/2008

Filed Under: Internet, Innovation (invention), Technology (general), Computing & Information Technology

QUEZON CITY, Philippines — Various government agencies have spent about P500 million for so-called community e-centers (CeC) over the last four years, an official of the National Computer Center said.

With budget coming from Philippine government and grants from international foundations like Telecentre.org, the CeC initiative hopes to get more support from various stakeholders in both government and private sector, said Maria Teresa Camba, director of the National Computer Center – Field Operations Office (NCC-FOO) who spoke to representatives of foundation partner Telecentre.org.

Currently, Telecenter.org supports over 100,000 telecenter units managed with the help of local government units and state and college universities. Telecenter.org also helps similar facilities in Brazil, Mexico, United Kingdom, Spain, and India.

Sharing the program’s roadmap, Camba said the CeC through the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), also intends to build more partnerships among stakeholders.

While CeC is a program under CICT, organizations like Telecentre.org have become a partner to help maintain and sustain the program.

Florencio Ceballos, program manager of Telecentre.org, a unit of the International Development Research Centre, said the CeC should be ready for “interface 2.0.”

“A telecenter 2.0 is more connected, implements information sharing, provides training for operators, offers better content and services, and explores new system models to make itself sustainable,” he said.

Ceballos added: “Within the network of the large community we work globally, the Philippines along with Spain, moves toward the direction we want to go and thus, represents a model for replication of best CeC practices.”

Camba said the CeC program is divided into four component areas. These include infrastructure to connect the CeC to power and the Internet, development of local content, capacity building for sustainability and program development.

Of the four components, Camba said infrastructure remains the biggest challenge for CeC sites.

Yvonne Flores, government affairs manager of the corporate affairs unit of Intel Philippines, added that government should encourage more telecommunications companies to provide infrastructure in remote areas or underserved communities in the country.

Camba, however, pointed out that companies like PLDT, Globe and Smart have committed to support the CeC program. Government, she said, has yet to see these future partnerships fly.

“The good news is Filipinos are open to [using] the mobile phone,” said Luz Firmalino, acting director of MIC division of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources Research and Development

In the Farmers’ Information and Technology Services center in Batangas, farmers found it easier to send SMS questions to CeC trainers who would provide answers based on their training or who would look up the information on the computers at the community e-centers.

“This opens opportunities for us to consider tapping technology that best fits the needs and requirements of a CeC network,” said Ceballos.

“The concept of the CeC infuses technology and community building and developing partnerships anchored on progressive goals,” said Manuel Tabora, provincial administrator of Nueva Ecija.

There are 16 tribes of indigenous people in Nueva Ecija who were organized into a cooperative via e-Coop and e-tribe portals, according to Tabora.

By enabling the 16 tribes to meet together virtually, they were able to take action on preserving culture, engage in livelihood programs and explore possible tie-up with tribes from outside the country. They were connected to the Philippine CeC Network portal.

Ceballos suggested CeC trainers should improve their knowledge and be equipped with talent beyond typical information technology skills or those that require them to interface with people and eventually help scale up projects that can provide better quality training.

The CeC proponents are preparing to document experiences in Web 2.0 fashion, using blogs to share best practices, issues and processes to address CeC challenges.

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