Sample of Current Projects
The IDRC has funded pilot programs under the Acacia Initiative in order to bring information and communication technologies to the local level, especially in rural areas. Because of this initiative, telecenters have been established in the towns of Manhica and Namaacha. Telecenters are attempts to serve the needs of the community by providing access to knowledge and learning. The emphasis is on integrating these centers at the local level so that the community can use it as a local resource center in addition to using it to access information in the global community. In order to encourage local content and use, low cost internet service is necessary.1
Telecenters are run by a manager who takes care of teaching introductory computer courses, operating and maintaining the equipment. Centre Informatica at the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (CIUEM) provides the manager with support over the first four years as needed. Economically, after the initial help with start-up costs, the centers are expected to run in a business style where the telecenter is responcible for its own sustainability. The idea is to have them provide what people demand the most and are willing to pay for.
So far the centers’ most useful functions have proven to be information and communication. Further, the information services head of CIUEM reports that “phones, photocopiers, and computer training are popular, as are television and radio services. Demand for training is constant.” Telecenters also serve “as social centres, and for reducing isolation.”6
The telecenters are equiped as follows:
In order for any community technology center to be successful, it must be self-sustainable. These telecenters face the challenge of looking for ways to provide access to all members of the community, while keeping usage costs low. Although the centers are self-sustaining at the moment, the telecenters have to find ways to subsidize access for more Mozambicans. To this end, the centers have started looking for sponcers and donors that will donate equipment or fund computer training.
The difficulty with obtaining funding will be that Mozambique cannot turn to its private sector to cover the costs of such an ambitious endeavor. Still struggling to establish itself and recover from the effects of the civil war, the private sector does not have the capacity to be much help to the telecenters. Thus, the centers have been looking to sources outside of the country to help fund its programs.
Given the progress in telephony and computer access, and also given the aggressive government outreach programs, general Mozambican Internet usage has shown marked increase from 1991-2001. Over this period, the number of Internet users in Mozambique has increased from 5500 to over 12000. The number of Internet host-sites have increased from 31 in 1996 to 156 in 1999 (3), up to 179 in 2000 (7). Up till now, around 75% of all Mozambican Internet users have been located in Maputo, and the state has encouraged Internet use mostly to people who’ve shown potential to earn commercial revenues in the global markets. Now, however, through the help of such organizations as the USAID and the IDRC, Mozambique has “promised to deliver solutions to the much needed rural communities that compose nothing less than 13 million of Mozambique’s 15 million population.” Indeed, a whopping $21 million of USAID funds are expected to develop a $21 million fiberoptics project as well as antenna systems for wireless access in three Mozambican provinces (3). The hope is these investments in the country will put Mozamibique on the path to being competitive in the world market.