On May 11, 2012, the Ministry of Justice of Georgia launched the “Computer Knowledge Society Initiative” to promote digital literacy and e-skills, with a focus on economic development. Will they build on learning from other countries? How can the global library and telecentre communities help them succeed?
The first stage of the project will establish computer centers in 300 villages, to later extend to 600 villages.
Managers as infomediaries
Staff will be selected though an open competition. People can apply individually or in pairs (each center will have two operators). Those selected will receive access to training and an internship, free equipment (three computers + peripherals), and a year of technical support.
Staff will act as infomediaries and provide support to community members, with a focus on:
- Education — Basic computer, Internet, search, and programming skills
- Economic development — Using and creating e-commerce sites (such as mymarket.ge and myauto.ge), sharing via social media (YouTube, Facebook)
- Access — Use of ICTs for access to education, government services, and social service agencies/organizations (for example Georgia’s Civil Development Agency is a project partner)
Private sector partnerships & financial sustainability
The initiative is intended to be financially sustainable. There will access fees and center operators can provide complementary services to supplement income. Partnerships with the private sector (banks, insurance companies, parcel delivery companies, etc.) are expected to expand service offerings.
Gambling, gaming, and “entertainment network” will be prohibited.
A call to build on existing efforts & networks
Telecentre-Europe and Beyond Access: Libraries Powering Development have a role to play here. They can reach out to the ministry — they’ve got a great Twitter and Facebook presence — and help make this a success. I’m not sure if new centers will be built, or whether they will be housed within existing infrastructure. In the interest of long-term sustainability it would be most awesome to see some good networking, mentoring, and partnerships with libraries and existing public access efforts. We’re all too aware of the pitfalls of big, top-down government projects.
Prior research on public access Georgia
Because I’m an incurable sharer I’m adding here three reports from the Technology & Social Change Group‘s Public Access Landscape Study, which from 2007 to 2009 examined ICT access and use in 25 countries, including Georgia. Likely also the results of TASCHA’s Global Impact Study will also be of interest to the initiative. Especially the in-depth study on non-instrumental uses, as it looks specifically at whether or not allowing gaming in technology centers is a good thing.