28.11.2006 -

On the road to knowledge societies in African communities

Telecentre and community media leaders from over 20 Africa countries are gathering this week to advance the movement for community access to knowledge.

Some 50 participants from community-based information and communication centres and networks from across Africa have come together to share skills and experiences of using information and communication technology and media for local development.


The African Telecentre Leaders Forum, 27 November to 2 December, is organised by telecentre.org in partnership with UNESCO and a wide array of national and international stakeholders from the public and private sector, including Microsoft, the Open Knowledge Network, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The meeting is taking place at the Songhai Centre in Porto Novo, Benin.


The forum is also a key activity within UNESCO's community multimedia centre (CMC) initiatives. Since 2001 UNESCO has supported some 100 CMCs in 10 African countries, 73 in the context of large-scale projects in Cameroon, Mali, Mozambique and Senegal. CMCs combine traditional media such as community radio with new information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as computers, internet and other digital devices.


Building networks and concrete collaborative projects that help telecentres to success is the major focus of the African Telecentre Leaders Forum. "Networks are mechanisms and structures for supporting telecentres and other community information centres to strengthen their impact," explains Meddie Mayanja, telecentre.org's senior programme officer for Africa. "The forum is really about taking the success and impact of the grassroots community media movement across Africa to a new level," adds Mark Surman, Managing Director of telecentre.org.


The forum is strategic for UNESCO particularly in terms of building major community ICT partnerships in Africa and in synergising the work of telecentres, community media and other local actors as agents of sustainable and inclusive development.


For the first time in Africa, UNESCO is also featuring Broadcast-in-a-box that was commissioned from Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union [see photo]. The unit is a complete radio broadcast studio available for approximately USD 6500 and is part of UNESCO's strategy for popularising community radio and emphasising the "c" in ICT for development initiatives.

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