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Tele-centres as local institutions: present landscape in Nepal.

A 2010 message from Dr. Hamadoun I. Toure, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) marking five years since the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis, included the following:

In today's world, information and communication technologies (ICTs) have a profound effect on most socio-economic, political and cultural aspects of society; they have become indispensable tools in the implementation of national development plans in many countries, supporting their efforts to secure the welfare and prosperity of their citizens. Yet, the prevalence of digital divisions worldwide hinders the application of ICT capabilities in areas vital for development, such as agriculture, health and education, impeding progress towards the achievement of an inclusive digital society (International Telecommunication Union [ITU], 2010b, p. iii).

The notion of ICTs as vital 'tools' in the implementation of development initiatives has been taking root not only in promoting the goals of the Millennium Declaration but also in implementing national government initiatives that support those goals. In Nepal, where mountainous terrain, low literacy rates and limited resources pose major barriers to access to information, use of ICTs as a tool for achieving national development goals has brought with them great hopes. One of the major channels adopted by Nepal to bridge the digital divide is through establishment of multipurpose community tele-centres (hereafter, Tele-centres). Nepal's commitment to provide wider access to information for rural populations is reflected in the Tenth Five-Year Development Plan (2002-2007), the national development plan document of Nepal which states plans to establish 1500 Tele-centres in rural areas of Nepal ("Rural Tele-centres", n.d., para. 2).

The origin of Tele-centres can be traced back to the 1980s when Scandinavian countries started providing shared access to office equipments in rural areas aiming to include rural areas in the information economy (Colle, 2010). In the following decade, many international organisations including the ITU, UNESCO, World Bank along with other development agencies promoted initiatives providing public access to computers and networks (Colle,

2010). The 1990s was also a time when Tele-centres tended to be isolated pilot projects primarily funded by donor agencies. The Tele-centre initiatives during the decade of 2000s is marked by characteristics including the emergence of Tele-centre networks, increased involvement from the government, academia and the private sector, and improvement in the policy and regulatory environment of many countries where Tele-centre operate (Fillip & Foote, 2007). The trajectory of Tele-centre development in Nepal mirrors the current international trend in that there is a momentum towards moving beyond piloting Tele-centres to using them as one of the key local institutions promoting development.

In this paper, Tele-centre refers mainly to those establishments that "tend to be in the public sector, are operated by government bodies or non-governmental organisations (NGOs), serve a low-income clientele, and have a community development mission" (Colle, 2009). However, in the current context of Nepal, many of the Tele-centres also share the properties of Internet Access Points (IAPs) due to their primary focus on internet use and information seeking. Besides those Tele-centres rolled out and supported by the High Level Commission on Information Technology (HLCIT) that are called Rural Information Centers, other forms in which Tele-centres exist in Nepal include Tele-centres based in schools, those that combine radio broadcasting and those that use multiple media beyond radio for community development. The number of Tele-centres is bound to grow in the near future with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) aiming to establish a total of 114 Tele-centres in 38 districts of Nepal as part of the Information and Community Technology Development Project by 2014 (UNESCAP, 2009).

The Government of Nepal along with non-government organisations (NGOs), bilateral and multilateral organisations including ADB, Danish Agency for International Development (DANIDA), Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank have actively supported projects in Nepal aimed at promoting access to ICTs at the community level. While much information on Tele-centre related initiatives in Nepal is available online, a complete picture of the present Tele-centre landscape in Nepal is hard to visualise. Updates from multiple projects outpace their systematic presence online and there is no official documentation available publicly that keeps track of all Tele-centre related initiatives. The estimated number of Tele-centres currently in operation in Nepal range from somewhere around 200 (Bhattarai, 2009), to 300 (Pariyar, 2007; Rai, 2008) and even 400 (Rai, 2009).

This study is a preliminary attempt to compile available information on Tele-centre initiatives in Nepal. Data gathered for the study are limited to information available online through organisation websites, project documents, papers presented at meetings, online articles and, where possible, email communication1 with those involved with Tele-centres.

The paper is divided into five major sections. The first section provides a background on access to ICTs in Nepal. The second section provides a description of the current policy context in which the Tele-centres operate and the third section provides a description of selected initiatives taking place in Nepal. The fourth section provides an analysis of the service provided by Tele-centres based on those Tele-centres that are registered with a national Tele-centre portal. The final section presents ways forward for institutionalising Tele-centres as viable knowledge hubs in rural Nepal.

Background on ICT Access in Nepal

Rural areas in Nepal face multiple challenges in terms of access to communication technologies. Availability of telecommunications holds a special meaning particularly in rural areas as for many villagers getting to the nearest district headquarters may take several days of walking on foot. Approximately 22 percent of the population still needs to walk over four hours to the nearest roads (ADB, 2009). In many rural areas, telephone subscription is less than 1 per 1000 and the nearest telephone may be more than 10kms away (Shields, 2009). 2.8 percent of households in Nepal had access to a computer in 2007 and only an estimated 1 percent of households had access to the internet from home (ITU, 2010a). There were a total of 33 licensed Internet Service Providers (ISPs) serving the Nepalese market as of April 2008 (NTA, 2008) out of which 31 were serving users in Kathmandu (Pariyar, 2007). In 2008, the teledensity in Nepal was 2.99 fixed-line telephone per 100 inhabitants (Pandey and Shrestha, 2009) and 18.47 mobile phone subscribers per 100 inhabitants (Ghimire, 2009). The Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) introduced Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) into Kathmandu in 2008 and is currently expanding their service outside the capital.

Expanding access to ICTs and information is complicated by the diverse needs of the population in Nepal. Adult literacy rates for males and females in 2006 were 69 percent and 42 percent respectively (ADB, 2009). Among the initial findings of the ethnographic action research under the Voice of Community Project conducted in various sites in Nepal included local communities having limited access to new media of communications, existence of caste discrimination, and diversity of local languages. These were all considered barriers to communicating and understanding content presented in the national language, i.e., Nepali (Skuse, Fildes, Tachhi, Marin & Baulch, 2007). Among the languages spoken in Nepal, Nepali speakers constitute approximately 49 percent of the population followed by speakers of languages such as Maithali, Bhojpuri, Tharu (Gagaura/Rana), Tamang, Newar, Magar and Awadhi (RTI International, 2007). The diversity in language and culture is reflected in the identification of 59 groups by the government as indigenous nationalities (ADB, 2009).

ICT Policy Environment in Nepal

ICT policy and infrastructure in Nepal

Nepal's IT policy of 2000 envisioned Nepal on the global map of information technology within a span of five years (Government of Nepal, 2000). The objectives of IT Policy 2000 were "to make information technology accessible to the general public and increase employment through this means, to build a knowledge-based society and to establish knowledge-based industries" (HLICT, 2005). IT Policy 2000 also promotes private sector participation and computer education for all by 2010 (Shields, 2009). The revised draft of IT Policy 2004 includes plans to reduce import duties on telecommunication equipment to be deployed to rural areas. The Three Year Interim Plan (2007-2010) which is the most recent national development plan, also mentions establishing Tele-centres throughout the country and developing a system to provide various ICT-related telecommunication services (National Planning Commission, 2007).

Recent developments

The full implementation of two major projects is underway in Nepal that would enhance global communications capability and expand the possibilities for various ICT services within Nepal. The Government of Nepal has finished laying out optical fiber cable along the East-West Highway in collaboration with the Government of India in 2005. Among the objectives are to "provide TV and Radio broadcast transmission links for real time national and international broadcasts of programmes, to implement e-applications such as e-education, e-health networks, e-governance etc. (Hada, 2006)." Furthermore, Nepal Telecom (NT) with support from the People's Republic of China (PRC) finished building a 115 kms long fiber optic network linking Kathmandu to Khasa located at the border of the PRC in 2008. NT increased the internet bandwidth capacity to 400 Mbps with partial completion of optical fiber link to India (Pandey and Shrestha, 2009).

Legalisation of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and removal of licensing restrictions of certain frequencies is another notable development (Shields, 2009). Furthermore, implementation of a five year e-government Master Plan developed by the HLCIT with support from the Government of Korea is yet another avenue for wider significance of ICT usage in Nepal.

Legalisation of electronic transactions and digital signatures through the Electronic Transaction Act in December 2006, recognition of e-mail correspondence as legal for judicial purposes by the Supreme Court, and the enactment of the Right to Information Act in August 2007 (Pandey and Shrestha, 2009) all reflect the legal environment responding to the demands of the new ICT environment.

Key government institutions related to ICTs

Government ministries directly involved in ICT development include the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MOEST) and the Ministry of Information Science and Communication (MoIC). MOEST is a policy making body for e-governance while MoIC is responsible for licensing, infrastructure and regulation. Other government bodies facilitating ICT development in Nepal include the HLCIT, an apex body formed in 2003 responsible for oversight and policy guidance for development of ICT sector, Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) which is the regulatory body for telecommunications including ISPs responsible for licensing and the National Information and Technology Center (NITC) which is tasked with operating the Rural Telecom Development Fund (RTDF).

Tele-centre Landscape in Nepal

Among the various terminologies used to refer to Tele-centres in Nepal are Rural Information Centers (RIC) or Grameen Suchana Kendra in Nepali, Community e-Center (CeC), Community Information Center (CIC), Community Multimedia Center (CMC), District Information Center, and Public Access ICT Services Centers (PAICTS). There are many stakeholders currently involved in establishing new Tele-centres and providing support to the existing ones. Below is a summary of selected Tele-centre activities taken up by various agencies including government, non-government and international agencies.

Community-e-Centers (Supported by ESCAP and ADB)

The first CeC was established in Phutung VDC, Kathmandu District in October 2009. According to a baseline study conducted by an ADB consultant in 2007, the use of CeCs was primarily for telephone calls, internet and email. Two common challenges found were lack of regular internet connectivity and cost (Rai, 2008). Sites for five additional CeCs are located in each of the five development regions of Nepal. Out of the total of six CeCs, four would be based in Village Development Offices (VDCs), which constitute the smallest administrative unit in a village, one at a college and another one at a women's cooperative office (Rai, 2008). Needs assessment workshops were conducted during September 2007 to January 2008 at each of the pilot sites. The assessments revealed that community members needed information on agriculture, markets, health, employment, education and discrimination (Rai, 2008).

Community Multimedia Centers (CMCs), UNESCO

CMC is a model developed by UNESCO beginning in 1994 to overcome barriers to using new ICTs for development (Bhutia and Martin, 2007). Barriers addressed by CMCs include lack of awareness of the benefits of ICTs, high cost, lack of access and connectivity, language barriers and skills required for content creation (Bhutia and Martin, 2007). CMCs have been established in Nepal under the Global Pilot CMC Project funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. In 2003, UNESCO supported the establishment of the first CMC in Tansen, Palpa District and has since established two additional CMCs. A unique feature of the CMC model is the use of traditional media in addition to providing public access to internet, telephone, fax, photocopiers and scanners. Media used in the case of Nepal include FM broadcasting services, cable TV network, design and desktop publishing software applications, audio and video editing.

E-Network Research and Development (ENRD) and Nepal Wireless Networking Project

Mahabir Pun, leader of Nepal Wireless Networking Project (NWNP), was a pioneer in connecting Nangi, a rural village in Myagdi District through wireless technology. According to the NWNP website, NWNP has connected more than 42 villages in different regions of the country and are expanding wireless connections to various districts. As of March 2010, the total number of establishments connected exceeded 90 (R. Poudel, personal communication, March 3, 2010). NWNP provides wireless technology to support a broad range of projects including monitoring the expansion of a glacier lake in the Everest region and testing of Visa and Mastercard transactions at a tourist hub. Many of the projects focus on expanding health and education services in the rural areas. The NWNP is currently involved in two telemedicine projects and is working to expand their telemedicine network to additional villages. The NWNP is also interested in expanding live distance-teaching among schools to address the shortage of qualified teachers in the rural areas.

National Information and Technology Center (NITC) Initiatives

In a presentation made at e-India Forum in 2007, NITC reported adopting the concept of school-based Tele-centres to remedy the situation wherein a majority of the government established Tele-centres lacked sustainability. NITC also noted that a majority of the community members including students could not afford the services being offered at the Tele-centres (Shakya & Shah, 2007). By 2007, NITC had piloted 11 school-based Tele-centres in different parts of Nepal. As of January-February 2010 (Magh 2066 Nepali Year), 118 school-based Tele-centres had been established by the NITC (NITC, 2010). NITC school-based Tele-centres are based in public schools in rural areas and are equipped with computers, fax, printer, scanner and photocopy machine, web camera, headphones, microphones and an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). The schools are responsible for providing a computer teacher.

READ-Nepal Libraries

Rural Education and Development (READ) is an NGO that has successfully partnered with communities to build libraries. One of the requirements for receiving support from READ is community engagement in income generating activities to make the libraries sustainable. READ libraries in Nepal have engaged in local enterprises ranging from renting out storefronts, meeting hall, to catering and operation of souvenir shops, and ambulance services.

Many of the libraries established by READ offer services similar to ones offered by a Tele-centre and beyond. All READ libraries include a computer room with occasional internet access, and are equipped with printers, photocopiers, video and television (Neuman, Khan & Dondolo, 2008). READ libraries develop a weekly "wall newspaper" with national news and contributions from the local community (Neuman et al., 2008). For example, Jhuwani Community Library (JCL) in Bachaulee of Chitwan District provides access to various ICTs in addition to books. JCL screens informational videos in its library and facilitates 42 women's groups based on saving and credit which currently exists in the form of a registered cooperative (Skuse et al., 2007). In addition, JCL also provides access to news and information through a multimedia data casting system in partnership with Equal Access Nepal, an NGO that provides development information to underserved areas. Income to sustain the library operations is generated from ambulance services, computer training, library membership fees, and service charges for internet, fax, lamination and scanning services (Skuse et al., 2007).

Rural Urban Partnership Programme (RUPP), UNDP

The first RUPP supported Tele-centre was established in 2003 in a rural market center. RUPP supports approximately 112 Tele-centres and, in addition, had plans to establish Tele-centres and cyber cafes in 11 districts (RUPP-UNDP, 2007). With a focus on strengthening rural-urban linkages, RUPP-supported Tele-centres promote market linkages through Market Information Service (MIS). MIS provides daily agricultural commodity price information from 21 markets centres in Nepal and a few from markets bordering India through A portal aimed at providing a platform for buyers and sellers of various goods has also been created (Nepali e-Haat Bazaar at RUPP has established a basket fund of Rs. 60,000 at each of the Tele-centres to promote ICTs at the local level (RUPP-UNDP, 2007). RUPP supported Tele-centres also link community members to e-governance services of municipalities.

Services Provided by Tele-centres

HLCIT in collaboration with Winrock International launched the first Rural Information Gateway Portal (hereafter, portal) in June 2008. The portal (www. provides a common platform for rural users as well as for a wider audience in complementing development initiatives particularly in the areas of health, education and agriculture (HLCIT, 2008). The portal serves as a repository of information for those seeking information about Tele-centre activities in Nepal and is aiming to expand access to information resources for rural users, Tele-centre operators, donors and other stakeholders. Information on the portal is available in both English and Nepali. As of early March 2010, a total of 91 Tele-centres had registered with the portal. The following section presents an analysis of the services provided by Tele-centres based on the sample of the 91 registered Tele-centres. While such a sample is self-selected and may or may not represent a picture close to reality, the preliminary analysis is primarily aimed at visualising the diversity in the types of services provided and supporting organisations. The portal reports that while it has conducted a random check to see if a sample of Tele-centres were operational, the latest operational status of individual registered Tele-centres is yet to be verified.

Internet service provision was reported by 78 percent (71 out of 91) of the registered telecentres as one of their services provided. Of the total of 91 Telecentres registered with, 71 offer internet services and 20 do not. Innovative services provided include access to results of the School Leaving Certificate examination (a national examination (SLC) administered at the end of grade 10, price of agricultural commodities and e-commerce application (Figure 2). Services considered under the "Others" category include access to digital microfilm, market linkage services, tele-medicine and tele-education.

The number of Tele-centres offering value-added services in addition to basic phone and Internet facilities is 32, which comprise approximately 35 percent of the total registered Tele-centres in the portal. Services that were counted as value-adding service include computer related trainings, photo editing, access to Equal-Access data casting, provision of agriculture related information to farmers, desktop publishing, postal service, DV lottery application, access to a national exam results (SLC results), and access to health and education related information. Tele-centres that were providing value-added services were predominantly supported by non-government organisations, international agencies or both.

All of the Tele-centres that were being supported exclusively by the HLCIT reported providing basic services such as phone, internet, photocopy, scanner and printer (3). Those providing Business to business (B2B) e-commerce services reported being supported by either one of NTA or RUPP, or both. There were a total of 23 information centres that reported providing access to libraries out of which 22 are based in libraries and one of them is a Rural Information Center in Kailali District.

Data presented in Table 1 reflect the number of Tele-centres that have been established under various agencies and partnerships that surfaced during the data gathering process of this study. This study acknowledges initiatives by many other national and international organisations in providing support to Tele-centres in Nepal and recognises the limited representation of initiatives in the study. Other NGOs providing such support include Forum for Information Technology-Nepal, National Rural Information Technology Development Society and Synergy Nepal. International agencies include the World Bank, European Union, and Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). The World Bank has provided financial support to NTA under the Scaling up of ICT Access Services in Nepal Project (4) and has also extended in kind support.

Other Initiatives Promoting Access to ICTs

Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya (MPP)

Computing in Nepali language has been made possible by the development of NepaLinux by the Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya (MPP, http://www.mpp. under the Pan Localisation Project. MPP is also working to develop the Nepali Optical Character Recognition (OCR) system and further refining a Nepali spell checker, thesaurus and Nepali Unicode support (Pandey and Shrestha, 2009).

Open Knowledge Network Project (OKNP)

Open Knowledge Network Project (OKNP) is a multi-stakeholder partnership formed among HLCIT, ENRD, Internet Service Providers Association of Nepal (ISPAN), MPP, One World South Asia (OWSA), Delhi and READ with a goal of promoting local content in the Nepali language5. Twenty-four ICT enabled access points supported by one or more of the partner organisations and RUPP created local content and have forwarded it to the OKN secretariat

Ways Forward for Facilitating Access to ICT and Iinformation

In moving forward, it would be critical to assess further and take into account any possible barriers and limitations experienced by both the users and people working in Tele-centres.

Overcoming barriers to Tele-centre access

Creation of portal has been one of the key initiatives taken to bring together all Tele-centres operating in the country. The community space offered by a Tele-centre is an important aspect of the Tele-centres in a diverse country like Nepal. While there remains far more challenges to successfully overcome barriers of caste, gender and socio-economic status in terms of bringing diverse populations together in a Tele-centre, Tele-centres still remain a strong opportunity to create a space that promotes development. As Ariyabandu (2000) puts it optimistically, Tele-centres as a knowledge hub have the potential to bridge, not only the digital divide but other economic, social and gender divides which are polarising societies.

The recent momentum gained to connect VDCs to the world through a Tele-centre is a critical step towards a concerted effort in improving access to ICTs. However, meaningful digital inclusion would necessitate going beyond providing physical access to digital technologies thereby ensuring effective use as the next important steps. In this connection, Skuse et al. (2007), while acknowledging provision of technology as being fundamental to access, call for strengthening of interfaces that exist between the poor and the ICT initiatives for a more meaningful use.

Participation of women in Tele-centres is one of the challenges bound to be compounded in rural areas where women face multiple competing priorities. Some of the strategies adopted elsewhere include establishing intermediaries who use the information resources of a Tele-centre on behalf of groups of individuals and ensuring participation of at least one woman in the management of Tele-centre as in the case of Swaminathan Foundation in India (Colle, 2010).

The focus on adopting the school-based Tele-centre model is gaining strength in terms of their number in Nepal. While it serves the essential purpose of providing young children and youth with access to ICTs, anecdotal evidence suggests some of the challenges of school access that may need attention. As cited by in DNET (2007), it may be the case that community members may not always be welcome in the school complexes. Also teachers who are not directly involved with handling the computers may feel deprived (Development Research Network [DNET], 2007).

Expanding the realm of partnership for content localisation

There have been laudable efforts on many fronts to make content meaningful for a diverse audience in the rural areas. However, many of them are in the form of time-bound projects on one or more aspects of facilitating content creation. Colle (2010) brings attention to the dearth of focus on the potential of universities as significant partners in the Tele-centre movement considering that both share similar functions of creating, storing and diffusing knowledge (Colle, 2009). While universities in many developing countries have adopted information technologies in teaching, research and operations, doing so for activities related to rural development is far from common (Colle, 2010).

One of the common challenges identified is the lack of local content in Tele-centres (Colle, 2009; Rai, 2008; Roghchild, 2008; RUPP-UNDP, 2007). Tele-centres can benefit from partnership with universities in creating localised content based on research, assessment of community needs and gaining operational support (Colle, 2010). An example of a successful partnership between a Tele-centre and a university is the partnership formed between Thai Nguyen University of Agriculture and Forestry (TUAF) and Tele-centres in Northern Mountainous Region of Vietnam (Colle & Dien, 2007). Among the various approaches to Tele-centre operation in Nepal discussed in this paper, the CeC model is the only one that explicitly states partnership with academic institutions as a strategy option for forming partnerships with potential content providers (ADB & UNESCAP, 2009). A specific example, reportedly an unsuccessful one, was the case of Panauti Telecenter in Kavre District that involved a university club as a partner, which had agreed to help with maintenance of computers (Amatya, 2009). However, examples of partnerships focusing beyond maintaining or incorporating technical solutions were not available.

Expanding the mode of communication to promote ICT literacy, the networking and resource sharing portal established by IDRC at the international level, notes the possibility of using different modes of communications and going beyond print and web materials exclusively to engage meaningfully with Tele-centre operators. Authors of Finding a Voice Report assert that digital inclusion is measured increasingly by technological fluency and multimedia content creation (Skuse et al., 2007). Perhaps moving towards achieving 'creative ICT literacy' rather than a disproportionate emphasis on 'computer literacy' could be a strategy well suited to meet the needs of those who have the most number of barriers to overcome in accessing information (Skuse et al., 2007).

Making rules and regulations friendly towards stakeholders

While government bodies for overseeing specific areas of ICT have been created in Nepal, stakeholders often need to deal with multiple government agencies. For example, licensing for ISPs is handled by the NTA, whereas the MoIC allocates wireless frequencies, and the granting of the permission to put up an antenna tower is done by the Ministry of Forests (RTI International, 2007).

Addressing energy barriers

A study conducted in 2007 by UNESCAP identified several challenges being faced by Tele-centres in Nepal. Irregular power supply and availability of power supply at reduced levels of voltage is a problem experienced by many Tele-centres. Other challenges include inconsistent or slow internet connection, absence of local content, insufficient revenue (6) and lack of committed human resources (UNESCAP, 2007). As power outage and insufficient power are challenges that are likely to stay not just for the Tele-centres but for most parts of Nepal, exploring the use of alternatives such as energy-efficient notebook computers and LCD monitors (7) could save energy and cost (Winrock International, 2004).

Closing Notes

As Nepal moves forward in scaling up Tele-centre initiatives, further emphasis on channeling the experiences and resources into a collective effort warrants attention. Perhaps recognising the centrality of the multidimensional nature of scaling up Tele-centres, one which encompasses quantitative, functional, organisational and political scaling up (Fillip & Foote, 2007) would help to propel progress in all necessary directions. Despite challenges conceived as insurmountable, taking stock of the achievements made so far by the Tele-centre movement in Nepal do provide a glimmer of hope. As reported in the Sub-Regional Workshop on "Empowering the Rural Community through Community e-Center" that was convened in 2008, formation of sub-committees under Rural Telecom Coordination Committees at the HLCIT on policy, content and baseline/mapping, and consideration of incentives for Tele-centre operators including tax breaks (MoIC, 2009) are encouraging policy developments that lend support to the variety of Tele-centre initiatives that are taking place in rural areas. Furthermore, encouraging findings are also being documented at the community level. An evaluation conducted by UNESCO in Nepal notes that technical expertise is contributing towards breaking traditional social barriers (UNESCO, 2006). A well-functioning ecosystem of Tele-centres throughout rural Nepal arguably has the potential to become instrumental institutions not only towards extending basic services in health, education and government but also in providing marginalised populations an opportunity to overcome social, economic and cultural barriers that have hitherto contributed to sustaining the digital divide.



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Shields, R. (2009). The Landlocked Island: Information Access and Communications Policy in Nepal. Telecommunications Policy, 33 (3), 207-214.

Shrestha, S. D. (2006). ICTs for Increased Trade Competitiveness: The Case of RUPP in Nepal. Paper presented at the Annual Regional Meeting 2006 of One World South Asia, 23-24 January. Retrieved from OWSA.pdf

Skuse, A., Fildes, Tachhi, J., Martin K. & Baulch, E. (2007). Poverty and Digital Inclusion: Preliminary Findings of Finding a Voice project. New Delhi: UNESCO. Retrieved from

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UNESCAP. (2009b). Application of ICT Indicators to Assess the Current Status of ICT and e-readiness in Asia and the Pacific. ESCAP Technical Paper. Retrieved from IDD_TP_09_09_of_WP_7_2_9151.pdf.

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(1.) Collection of information beyond those available online and verification of information was limited due to the unavailability of most current information online and low response rate to emails.

(2.) Estimated number based on data from various sources.

(3.) Sangam Community Library, supported by HLCIT and READ-Nepal, was the only one providing value-added services.

(4.) Synergy Nepal received an in kind support of $50,000 from the NTA under the Worl Bank's Scaling up of ICT Access Services to establish Tele-centres in rural Nepal. content&view=category&layout=blog&id=15&Itemid=30

(5.) More information available at

(6.) Report notes that Tele-centres being run by ENRD/NWP and a number of RUPP supported Tele-centres were an exception in this regard.

(7.) A more detailed description and analysis of energy saving devices available at energy/files/Winrock Energy for Rural ICT Guidebook.pdf

Anuradha Tulachan is currently a student of public policy at the Cornell Institute of Public Affairs, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. She received a BA in Economics with a minor in International Relations from Mount Holyoke College. Her areas of interest are international development communication and education.
Table 1

Number of Tele-centres Supported by Various Organisations

Supporting               # of Tele-centres           # of         Total
Organisation              registered with        Tele-centres
                from additional
                                                online sources

HLCIT                           25

HLCIT + USAID                    1

HLCIT + READ                     1

HLCIT + ENRD                     1

READ                            21                    28           49

FIT                              2                     8           10

FIT + KOICA + NITC               1

ENRD                            19

RUPP                             3

RUPP + NTA                       6

USAID                           10

HLCIT + FIT +                    1
Computer Club

NICT + ICT4D                                           9

South Asia                                                         10
Partnership Nepal

NWNP                                                               25

UNESCAP (CeCs)                                         6

UNESCO (CMCs)                                          5

Synergy Nepal                                         16           16

National                                              14
Society (CIC)                   91                    86          177 *

* Calculation of total number of Tele-centres limited due to lack of
complete and the most up to date information

Figure 1: Type of Internet Connectivity Available

Number of telecentres with given
connectivity type

Dial up       88
Wireless      20
VSAT           8
Leased line    2

% Total

Dial up       96.7
Wireless      21.98
VSAT           8.79
Leased line    2.2

Most of the telecentres registered with the portal had
dial-up connections followed by wireless,
VSAT and leased line (Figure 1).

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 2: Services Offered by Telecentres Registered

Percentage of telecentres

Internet                                       78.02
Printer                                        39.56
Fax                                            39.56
Photocopy                                      38.46
Desktop Publishing                             34.07
Scanner                                        32.97
Phone                                          29.67
Computer training                              26.37
Library                                        25.27
CD Writer                                      10.99
B2B e-commerce                                  7.69
Typing service                                  6.59
Price of agricultural commodities               6.59
Lamination                                      6.59
Multimedia Data Casting (Equal Access-Nepal)    5.49
SLC exam results                                4.40
Others                                          3.30

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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Author:Tulachan, Anuradha
Publication:Journal of Development Communication
Date:Jun 1, 2010
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