Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships in the ICT4D Domain: An Indian Case Study


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Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships in the ICT4D Domain: An Indian Case Study

  1. 1. Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships in the ICT4D Domain An Indian Case Study1. The Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Concept1.1 Why Partner?“Man is a social animal by nature and necessity” (Aristotle); and barring a few exceptions (morecorrectly, deviations), such asrecluse, hermits and the like, they “Partnering is easy to talk about but invariablylive in groups/ communities. Their somewhat harder to undertake. It requires courage,social existence implies cooperation patience and determination over time. It is rarely aand collaboration because every ‘quick fix’ solution to a problem…” Ros Tennyson (2003) The Partnering Tool Bookindividual is special and differentand possesses some unique skills and competencies to complement the lack of it in anotherindividual. And, in this way, the community faces the challenges of everyday life and survives. Inother words, without even consciously intending, we partner with one another to accomplish oureveryday work, projects, missions and plans and even support our very existence in this world.Partnering is based on a few assumptions, such as: - The skill/ competency quotient varies from individual to individual, from community to community and from sector to sector; - The lack of it can be compensated through partnering with another person/ community/ sector that possesses that skill/ competency; - Partnering implies more than joining hands to complete a job/ project; - It presupposes mutual understanding and support; - And leads to building a ‘partnership’ to achieve a goal.1.2 What is Partnership?To put it very simply, “partnership refers to a relationship between individuals or groups that ischaracterized by mutual cooperation and responsibility, as for the achievement of a specifiedgoal.”1 This open ended definition leaves enough scope for conceiving partnerships at differentlevels and in different forms, informal as well as formal, such as two players partnering to play themen’s doubles in tennis; students partnering to do a Biology project; women partnering to form aSelf Help Group (SHG); and so on. All these situations also presuppose pooling together ofresources and skills, and sharing of risks, responsibilities and benefits at an informal level.Partnership acquires a formal/ legal form when applied to the business sector. Businesspartnerships, whether they are intra-business (two or more entrepreneurs coming together toconduct business) or inter-business (business to business strategic alliances where two or more businesses/ companies enter into a Marriage remains one of the earliest forms of contractual partnership to implement a project partnership (albeit institutionalized through where different kinds of core competencies tradition and a number of rituals and ceremonies) entered into by two consenting are needed, such as those involving adults who decide to live together and raise a infrastructure development, for example, the family. Delhi Metro Project), are regulated through a1 Partnership. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. HoughtonMifflin Company, 2004. (accessed: September 05, 2007).ssharma Page 1 10/16/2012
  2. 2. number of rules, code of conduct, which are equally applicable to all the actors constituting thepartnership. The wikipedia defines such partnerships as “a type of business entity in whichpartners share with each other the profits or losses of the business undertaking in which all haveinvested.”21.3 The Public Private Partnership (PPP)The partnership dimensions widened when it was started being explored and formed acrosssectors, albeit within the contractual framework. It was largely accepted that partnerships basedon cross sectoral collaborations “provide a new opportunity for doing development better byrecognising the qualities and competencies of each sector and finding new ways of harnessingthese for the common good” (Tennyson, 2003). Prominent among such trends was the PublicPrivate Partnerships or PPPs, which were seen as offering “a long term sustainable approach toimproving social infrastructure, enhancing the value of public assets and making better use of taxpayer’s money.”3 In general terms, PPP, or P3 as it is popularly known, refers to partnershipsbetween the government, public and the private sector, entered into through a formal procedurefor the delivery of public services or the development of infrastructure.The examples of PPPs operating across the world suggest that the scope of such partnershipscan vary from completely privatizing the services or facilities to just employing the financial and management techniques of the “They (PPPs) enable governments to transfer private sector (McDonough, 1998), construction and commercial risks to the private sector thus encompassing the concepts of which is best suited to manage them.” Planning Commission, GoI (2006)Towards faster & ‘privatization’, Private Finance more inclusive growth: An approach to the eleventh Initiative (PFI), Alternative Service Five Year Plan Delivery (Ford & Zussman, 1997) and Municipal Service Partnershipsalso within its ambit. Carroll and Steane (2000), taking into account the vast variations in PPPtypology and the circumstances in which these are formed, have defined them in the broadestsense as agreed cooperative ventures that involve at least one public and one private sectorinstitution as partners.While exploring the concept, Peters (1998) has identified five distinguishing features of any PPP.These are: (i) PPPs involve two or more actors; (ii) in a PPP, each participant is a principal, capable of bargaining on its own behalf without referring back to other sources of authority; (iii) PPPs are about building enduring and stable relationship between the public and the private sector participants; (iv) each participant contributes ‘something’ to the partnership, whether material or non material; (v) Participants undertake some amount of shared responsibility for partnership outcomes and activities.2 Wikipedia contributors, "Partnership," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed January 10, 2008).3 Akintoye, Akintola; Matthias Beck & Cliff Hardcastle (ed) (2003) Public- Private Partnerships: Managing risks andopportunities. Blackwell Publishing, London. Pp. 3.ssharma Page 2 10/16/2012
  3. 3. The above model presented by Peters is the ‘ideal type’. In actual situations, PPPs vary greatly interms of the extent of the roles and responsibility of both the public and the private sectors. It isusually seen that the public sector invariably takes upon itself the responsibility for deciding onthe nature of the services to be provided, the quality and performance standards of theseservices to be attained, and taking corrective action if performance falls below expectation (Smith,2000). In a way, the Government (always) retains an upper hand, and rather than assuming ajoint responsibility for completing the project, the private sector is supposed to bear most of therisks, responsibilities and, of course, appropriates the benefits. PPP enables the government totransfer these to the private sector that can accomplish such tasks because of their unique skillsand work culture. The preferred areas for building PPPs are infrastructure development,transportation, health and education.Lately, the Indian government has also started taking a very positive approach to the PPPs. Theyhave realized that such partnerships have eventually become “the preferred mode forconstruction and operation of infrastructure services, such as highways, airports, ports etc.” 4From the Government point of view, “PPPs offer significant advantages in terms of attractingprivate capital in the creation of public infrastructure as well as in improving efficiencies in theprovision of services to users... (these are seen as a) “way of attracting private money into publicprojects, not putting public resources into private projects.” 5 At the same time, while conceivingany PPP, the government has to ensure that it flourishes in a competitive environment where theyare able to select the best partner/s; and the same is also acceptable to all.1.4 PPP’s entry into the Development SectorAt the international level, two events, the Rio Earth Summit (1992) 6 and the Millennium Summit(2000)7 greatly impacted the scope of the partnership model. While the former brought the CivilSociety Organizations (CSOs) in the wider international and United Nations (UN) arena, the latter was instrumental in “In today’s world, the private sector is the dominant engine of growth – the principal creator of value and managerial resources. If the elevating the status of private sector does not deliver economic growth and economic ‘partnerships’ as a opportunity – equitably and sustainably – around the world, then power to reckon with peace will remain fragile and social justice a distant dream. That is to achieve the targets why I call today for a new partnership amongst governments, the set in the Millennium private sector and the international community.” Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, Declaration, popularly The World Economic Forum, Davos, 1997. known as the Millennium 8Development Goals (MDGs).4 Planning Commission (2006) Towards Faster & More Inclusive Growth: An Approach to the 11th Five Year Plan.Government of India, New Delhi: Yojana Bhavan. Page 41 (Box No. 2). (accessed: September 05, 2007).5 op. cit.6 “The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the worlds time-bound and quantified targets for addressing extremepoverty in its many dimensions- income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion-while promotinggender equality, education, and environmental sustainability. They are also the basic human rights-the rights of eachperson on the planet to health, education, shelter, and security.” Available online at: Page 3 10/16/2012
  4. 4. During the Rio Earth Summit (1992), the CSO sector finally acquired a consultative status afterbeing excluded from the UN deliberations for several decades. Moreover, the Rio Declaration onEnvironment and Development also talked about partnerships to achieve the goals of sustainabledevelopment. Particularly, on partnerships, it noted that one of its goals would be, “… establishinga new and equitable global partnership through the creation of new levels of cooperation amongStates, key sectors of societies and people…”9 Following the recommendations of the Rio EarthSummit on public-private collaboration, some of the projects launched by the UN, like the Public-Private Partnership for Urban Environment (PPPUE) program (launched in 1994) expanded thescope of their PPP model to include the CSO sector as well. Consequently, the PPPUE“expanded into a network of governments, businesses, non-governmental organizations (NGOs),members of the scientific and academic community, and other developed and developing countryinstitutions. Building on this collaboration, (they have established) sustainable models of public-private cooperation…”10 Without such broad based tripartite partnerships with the government,business and the CSOs, it was challenging for them to implement their projects in differentcountries.Thereafter, the inclusion of ‘partnership’ as one of the eight Millennium Development Goals(MDGs) by the United Nations11 provided further impetus to PPPs in the development sector,particularly with the proactive involvement of the CSOs. Its credentials as a sector to reckon withand forge partnerships with for the competency it possesses in reaching out to the communityand addressing their issues was finally established during the Johannesburg Earth Summit(2002).12 The CSO sector finally arrived on the international scene, as it was recognized as apartner in development by the UN and the wider international community after remaining on thefringes for several decades.This international trend motivated the governments and other sectors in developing countries toexplore and seek partnerships with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) that work closely with thecommunities, thereby making way for the entry of PPPs in the development sector. Since then, itsimportance as an instrument to accelerate development increased manifold, and it was alsoaccepted as such by the international community. Consequently, many of the government orcorporate sector initiated development projects that needed community outreach wereconceptualized around this model. But, the term PPP was not appropriate to acknowledge thecontributions of the CSO sector, as by definition it referred only to the private sector. Therefore, toaccommodate the CSOs within the partnership framework, the scope of cross sectoralpartnerships was further broadened to include multi-sectoral, tripartite or tri-sectoral partnerships.These later evolved into Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships or MSP, an emerging paradigmconsidered suitable to tackle the challenges of Information Communication Technology (ICT)enabled sustainable development.1.5 Introducing MSPs for Sustainable Development9 It notes that “the MDGs call for a special focus on partnerships… (as) no one government or institution can achieve theMDGs on its own”. Available online at: Last accessed on 10 October 2007.12 & Page 4 10/16/2012
  5. 5. MSPs are increasingly being seen as an evolving, but potent development paradigm bypractioners as well as researchers engaged in promoting ICT led sustainable development. Theresilient nature of this approach, with its unique strengths, makes it as appropriate for a smallpartnership comprising of merely two partners as for a huge partnership boasting of more than100 partners. This partnership derives substance not from the number of partners, but from thenature of relationship between partners and from leveraging upon their unique skills andcompetencies. “(As processes, MSPs) aim to bring together all major As suggested earlier, building on stakeholders in a new form of communication, the strength of pre-existing decision-finding (and possibly decision-making) on a particular issue… based on recognition of the partnership approaches, such as importance of achieving equity and accountability in the PPPs or Multi-Sectoral communication between stakeholders… on democratic Partnerships (to which it traces the principles of transparency and participation, and aim to closest affinity); its uniqueness lies develop partnerships and strengthened networks in the use of the term, ‘stakeholder’ among stakeholders. MSPs cover a wide spectrum of structures and levels of engagement. They can that sets it apart from all other types comprise dialogues on policy or grow to include of partnerships. The use of this term consensus-building, decision-making and provided a new dimension to the implementation of practical solutions. The exact nature whole partnership paradigm, as of any such process will depend on the issues, its ‘stakeholders’ are not mere partners objectives, participants, scope and time lines, among other factors.” (active or sleeping), but …“(they) Multi-Stakeholder Processes for Governance and have a ‘stake’ or an interest in a Sustainability: Beyond Deadlock and Conflict particular decision either as Minu Hemmati (2001) individuals or representatives ofgroups. This includes people who influence a decision, or can influence it, as well as thoseaffected by it .”13 The incorporation of this term within the partnership framework brought inconcepts like equity, transparency, accountability and mutual risk and benefit sharing on whichsuch partnerships are supposedly built and sustained; and which also elevate it to a higher levelin comparison to the PPPs.The emergence of MSPs and its relevance to ICT enabled sustainable development has to beappreciated in the context of the prevailing debate around the concept of ‘development’. Over theyears, it has undergone a major paradigm shift from top down advocacy by classical Westerneconomists who equated it with economic growth, industrialization and capital formation, to theones that took into account general well being of people, improvement in their quality of life andwidening of their choices (UNDP, 1990) and capabilities (Amartya Sen). These approaches alsosevered ‘development’s association exclusively with economic growth and capital formation; andredefined poverty as denial of access to ‘information or ‘knowledge’ (which is increasingly beingregarded as indispensable for development) in addition to denial of access to resources andlivelihoods. Thus, “international institutions, country donors and the broader developmentcommunity are rapidly coming to the conclusion that knowledge is central to development - thatknowledge is development”.1413 Hemmati, Minu (2001) Multi-Stakeholder Processes for Governance and Sustainability: Beyond Deadlock and Conflict;London: Earthscan Publications.14 World Development Report (1998/ 99) World Bank.ssharma Page 5 10/16/2012
  6. 6. MSPs and ICTs are central to the whole discussion around ‘knowledge for development’ and‘knowledge society’15 since technology is inevitable for aggregating, creating, managing anddisseminating knowledge and facilitating these activities requires MSPs. It is based on theassumption that no sector of the society, on its own, can initiate or contribute to the process ofsustainable development and establishing knowledge societies. The associated prerequisites forachieving these are so diverse that partnerships based on the concepts of ‘equity’ and ‘sharing’are extremely essential. In this respect, the MSP approach takes a big stride from the culture of‘debate (that dominated the interaction between various sectors of the society so far) to that ofdialogue’ (Tannen, 1998).1.6 How is MSP Different from the PPP?The way the term PPP is used to refer to even tripartite and multi-sectoral partnerships engagingthe CSO sector, has almost eclipsed the MSP concept. It is important to recognize here that inspite of a few obvious similarities, the MSPs are essentially different from the PPP. “They are notconformist client-contractor relationships or outsourcing arrangements, where one partyunilaterally determines the actions of another, and where recourse to resolving problems orrealising emergent opportunities associated with the relationship, lies wholly within the terms ofthe contract” (GKP, 2003:7). The salient differences between the MSPs and the PPPs areprojected through the following table, which derives from Peters (1998) and Hemmati (2002): Differences between PPPs and MSPs Public Private Partnerships Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships Traditionally and literally, these are MSPs are essentially multi-sectoral partnerships with partnerships between the government and the the CSO sector preferably being one of the partners. private/ corporate sectors. Other partners include the government, public/ private sectors, academia, donors, media, CBOs and others. Although these claim to be based on equity, the Equity, transparency and accountability are the basic government exercises an upper hand in MSP premises. deciding key issues. The main idea here is a shift in responsibility These are based on mutual sharing of risks and and risk from one sector of society to another, responsibilities. usually from the government to the private sector. The benefits are appropriated by the private It stresses on mutual sharing of benefits; thus sector, the executing party. creating a ‘win-win’ situation for all the stakeholders. They are generally formed in the areas of These are suitable for any issues dealing with infrastructure development, government service sustainable development and ICT4D, where multiple provision and the like. core competencies are required. These are mostly time bound. MSPs operate for indefinite periods as well. These are, as a rule, executed under formal These are also built around informal agreements or agreements, such as the BOT or BOOT without agreements as well, just by coming together agreements. for mutual cooperation.1.7 An Overview of Current MSP ThoughtMSPs are largely all about providing a platform where dialogue can take place, “a neutral, freeand ordered space, where violence is replaced by verbal debate, shouting by listening, chaos by15 Knowledge society is a derivative of the concept, ‘information society’, a society in which the creation, distribution,diffusion, use, and manipulation of information is a significant economic, political, and cultural activity. The concept of‘knowledge society’ is based on the recognition of knowledge as the most important capital in the present age, and hencethe success of any society lies in harnessing it. With current technologies, knowledge societies need not be constrainedby geographic proximity, as these offer much more possibilities for sharing, archiving and retrieving knowledge. Page 6 10/16/2012
  7. 7. calm” (Asmal, 2000). It is defined as an “alliance between parties drawn from government,business and civil society that strategically aggregate the resources and competencies of each toresolve the key challenges of ICT as an enabler of sustainable development, and which arefounded on principles of shared risk, cost and mutual benefits.” 16The MSP literature can be seen as an extension of the literature on partnerships in general,whether the PPPs, Multi-sectoral or tripartite partnerships. Glancing through the MSP literatureavailable today, one can easily infer that this concept is still evolving and so is the literaturearound it. It is still struggling for a strong theoretical foothold. Each MSP case study is enrichingits knowledge base by adding some useful tools or by refining its methodology. Instead ofcontradicting and critiquing the issues addressed by others; different authors have only added upresources to make this approach more relevant for sustainable development. Since it is arelatively new approach, most of the MSP literature revolves around identifying issues for MSPengagement and the MSP exploration, building and maintenance processes. It primarily focuseson finding ways to identify issues and describe processes, around which partners from hithertounrelated and mutually opposing sectors of the society can negotiate, collaborate and cooperate.For convenience, it can be broadly divided into two categories: a) those dealing with MSPconcept, methodology and tools; and b) those dealing with how to make the partnershipsustainable and successful through the intervention of partnership ‘broker’ 17, ‘third party facilitator’or the ‘leader’.Initially, those writing on the role of brokering in partnerships have attempted to analyze it foroptimizing the development performance of the corporate sector, especially under their CorporateSocial Responsibility (CSR) programs. The most notable writers in this context are MichaelWarner, Ros Tennyson, Luke Wilde who have contributed to developing rules of brokering thatare as applicable to and relevant for MSPs in the development sector as they are for thecorporate sector. In “The Guiding Hand” 18, Ros Tennyson and Luke Wilde find the ‘broker’indispensable for facilitating partnerships. He carries the responsibility of building and continuinga successful partnership till its objectives are met. They have identified seven stages ofpartnership building. The broker plays an important role throughout this process till the partnersstart thinking in terms of institutionalizing or sustaining the partnership.The same argument is put forward by Michael Warner in his short novel, “The New Broker:brokering partnerships for development”19, where MSP is explained from the private/businessperspective. He uses the narrative format to discuss how MSPs can be effectively used to addvalue to the development programmes of the private sector, what are the major constraints to thepartnership building process and how these could be resolved through the mediation of a ‘thirdparty facilitator’ or broker. The same concern is echoed in another Issue Paper written by him on16 GKP (2003) Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Issue Paper. GKP Secretariat, Kuala Lumpur. Available online Last accessed on 23 October 2007.17 The term ‘broker’ is not accepted very enthusiastically by the development sector because of its inherent highlybusiness specific connotations.18 Tennyson, Ros & Luke Wilde (2000) The Guiding Hand: Brokering Partnerships for Sustainable Development. London:Prince of Wales Business Leader Forum & the United Nations Staff College. Warner, Michael (2003) The New Broker: Brokering Partnerships for Development, London: Overseas DevelopmentInstitute.ssharma Page 7 10/16/2012
  8. 8. ‘Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Do We Need Partnership Brokers’ 20 and his latestshort novel, ‘The New Broker: Beyond Agreement’ 21, where he probes the issue further forestablishing the indicators for post partnership tracking and evaluation.In ‘The Partnering Tool Book’22, Ros Tennyson analyses all aspects of partnership building forsustainable development after establishing the rationale for using this approach over the others.Prominent among those establishing MSP as an alternative development paradigm on theconceptual plane are Minu Hemmati and Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP) Issue Paper. 23Minu Hemmati’s book, “Multi-Stakeholder Processes for Governance and Sustainability: BeyondDeadlock and Conflict”24 takes an eclectic approach to understand MSP processes, which sheconsiders as a major shift from the ‘culture of debate to dialogue’. Her book discusses the‘building blocks’ that are essential for sustaining multi-stakeholder processes in differentsituations/contexts.All the ongoing discussions on MSPs are synthesized in the GKP Issue Paper, prepared by the‘Overseas Development Institute’ and the ‘Foundation for Development Cooperation’. Withreference to MSP case studies carried out in different parts of the world under different socio-cultural and geographical contexts, it analyses its relevance for the business, government andcivil society; their role in the partnership; and the resources, skills and competencies contributedby them to make it successful.These studies lead to the inference that there is no ideal model of MSP that can address all thechallenges. It is not a panacea for all problems, but in certain conditions, it can be applied veryeffectively. At the same time, rather than presenting a theoretical framework in the strict sense ofthe term, it is more like a tool, presenting a methodology to facilitate the implementation of aproject/ program where various kinds of core competencies are required, or for ICT leddevelopment, which is very resource intensive. This is reflected through the literature also thatfocuses more on issues like why MSPs, when to use them, for what and how to use and sustainthem and so on. Although the MSP community of practice exists, there is lack of interaction amongthem, which limits sharing and dissemination of best practices.In an MSP since the stakeholders are drawn from varied backgrounds with differentcompetencies, skills, work cultures and values, it is extremely important to engage an individual(in case of small partnerships) as facilitator or broker or develop an institutionalized mechanism tosupport and maintain large partnerships. This is why the facilitator or the broker is so crucial inMSPs and much of the MSP literature also focuses on the role of the broker. Such anarrangement becomes indispensable for maintaining huge partnerships like the GKP and the20 Warner, Michael (2003) Partnerships for Sustainable Development: Do We Need Partnership Brokers, Issue Paper,Programme on Optimising the Development Performance of Corporate Investment, London: Overseas DevelopmentInstitute.21 Warner, Michael (2007) The New Broker: Beyond Agreement (Brokering Partnerships for Development), London:Overseas Development Institute.22 Tennyson, Ros (2003) The Partnering Tool Book, London: The International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF) and theGlobal Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).23 GKP (2003) Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Issue Paper. GKP Secretariat, Kuala Lumpur. Available online Last accessed on 23 October 2007.24 Hemmati, Minu ed. (2002) Multi-stakeholder Processes for Governance and Sustainability: Beyond Deadlock andConflict. London: Earthscan.ssharma Page 8 10/16/2012
  9. 9. National Alliance for Mission 2007 (henceforth referred to as Mission 2007), both of which have‘Secretariats’ to manage the partnership. The broker not only facilitates all the activities related topartnership exploration and building, but also enables communication between the partners. Inshort, he is responsible for enabling ‘networking’ between the partners, so that they remain informal/ informal contact for mutual support and assistance and do not drift away either from thepartnership itself or from their goals.One area that has been so far neglected by the MSP literature is about managing hugepartnerships with hundreds of partners and where the partnership acts as a platform forconverging and synergizing similar initiatives to contain the duplication of efforts. This is an areathat needs deeper probe in the context of emerging MSPs for telecentre 25 scale up in the SouthAsian and other developing countries.1.8 Fundamental MSP PremisesSeen in the above light, MSPs are more about “processes that engage partnerships and networksto address different issue areas” (Hemmati, 2002). The MSP model can be used for initiating amulti-stakeholder consultative process, collaborative decision influencing and/ or making and/ orcollaborative implementation of a project. Such case studies undertaken in different parts of theworld also corroborate the fact that it is resilient enough to suit different contextual demands. Still,there are certain fundamental premises underpinning any MSP study (GKP Issue Paper, 2003). - It applies to more than one sector partnerships with the CSO sector preferably being one of them. - The partnership operates in a given issue area requiring multiple competencies and resources; thereby necessitating the involvement of various sectors of the society. - The partnership derives strength from the unique core competency of each of the partners. - It operates around the notions of equity, transparency, accountability and mutual sharing of responsibilities, risks and benefits.Further, there are two inter-related and complementary aspects of any MSP: a) one being the issue area around which the multi-stakeholder processes are planned and organized; and b) the other being the MSP itself with its constituents/ partners.While the former deals with the identification of the issue area around which the partnership canbe formed, establishing the goals to be achieved and all the processes therein to achieve thesegoals, the latter deals with the partnership itself, like the partnering process covering partnersexploration, identification, partnership building, etc., the entry and exit points for partners,partnership sustainability and the dissolution of the partnership once the goals are achieved as inthe case of short term partnerships, and so on. The strategies to engage the stakeholders varydrastically. There is no single model for partnership exploration, building or maintenance andthese differ from context to context and based on these, the MSP typology also varies drastically.25 “A telecentre is a public place where people can access computers, the Internet, and other digital technologies thatenable people to gather information, create, learn, and communicate with others while they develop essential 21st-centurydigital skills. While each telecentre is different, their common focus is on the use of digital technologies to supportcommunity, economic, educational, and social development...” Wikipedia contributors, "Telecentre," Wikipedia, The FreeEncyclopedia, (accessed February 2, 2008).ssharma Page 9 10/16/2012
  10. 10. 1.9 The MSP TypologyBeing a very flexible and adaptable approach, MSPs differ enormously in terms of their purpose,scope, time frames, complexity, level of engagement (local to global), size and diversity ofpartners, their unique core competency and resources (Hemmati, 2002; Carmen, 2004). Inaddition, the partnering process, i.e., the way such partnerships are explored, formed andmaintained till the end objectives are met, also determines the MSP typology. Based on these,there are: a) Long term, evolutionary and dynamic partnerships with a huge partnership base for example, the GKP.26 It traces its origin to the outcomes of the 1997 Global Knowledge Conference, backed by the Canadian Government where a large number of stakeholders from various sectors entered into a partnership to achieve predefined goals. This is a complex and evolving form of partnership where new partners can join according to specified membership criteria. Its aim is to promote access to, and effective use of, knowledge and information as tools of sustainable development, by sharing information, experiences and resources to realise the potential of ICTs. International MSP forums like the World Bank’s Business Partners for Development Program and the PPPUE 27 program of the UN, which is essentially an MSP because of its tripartite nature with the active involvement of the CSOs, business sector, are other such examples. b) There are partnerships formed on the basis of two or more stakeholders entering into a formal partnership agreement and setting up broad objectives and then within that framework addressing emergent situations and exploring local partners who can best contribute towards meeting these objectives. Within the broader framework, they build short term, static and small partnerships with clear cut objectives to be achieved within a time frame. The lead in this kind of partnership formation is generally taken by the organization/s that conceive the idea and set the objectives. One example in sight is the Ericsson Response Programme,28 a formal partnership between private sector, Ericsson and humanitarian sector, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), focusing on disaster telecoms to address emergent issues, such as disaster mitigation and risk reduction and harnessing cutting edge technology to tackle disaster related challenges. These are localized MSPs to address any emergent challenges. They enter into partnership arrangements with other agencies according to the specific emergency situations and demands. Through this partnership, they have managed complex emergencies, for example, providing communications for the Afghanistan humanitarian response work in 2002, natural disasters, e.g. the Gujarat earthquake, 2001, and support to the handling of refugees, e.g. western Tanzania, to increase operational efficiency and staff security. 29 c) Partnerships formed for converging and synergizing sporadic, but similar initiatives for national scale up of the telecentre initiative, like the Mission 2007, 30 which is driven by the shared vision of establishing a knowledge centre in each of the 600,000 villages of India.26 http://www.mission2007.inssharma Page 10 10/16/2012
  11. 11. It is a partnership composed of smaller sub partnerships and/or networks. These partnerships are formed with a dual purpose: for containing the duplication of efforts and for influencing policies and regulatory reforms, which are essential to create an enabling policy environment for the scale up. Here, the partnership building strategy involves converging and synergizing all existing telecentre and information kiosk initiatives. Based on this, Mission 2007 has created a huge partnership base to realize its vision of national scale up. d) Similarly, there are design oriented and implementation oriented partnerships and in some cases, the MSPs address both (GKP Issue Paper, 2003). Multi-stakeholder partnerships formed primarily for creating an enabling environment for ICT access and use through policy influence and regulatory reforms are essentially ‘design-orientated’ partnerships, such as the GKP, Mission 2007; while those dealing with enhancing ICT access and use; and training for the same, promoting e-health, e-government, e- education, e-commerce, etc. are basically ‘implementation-orientated’ partnerships.The various types of MSPs, as outlined above, are not essentially water-tight compartments;there are considerable overlaps between them in practice. It also suggests that MSPs areindispensable for any ICT driven development initiative, more so for the telecentres emergingduring the ‘Telecentre 2.0’31 phase.2. MSPs for Telecentre 2.02.1 What are Telecentres?As defined earlier, telecentres are public ICT access centres that enable the rural and poorpeople to appropriate value added information, knowledge and services for their developmentwithout any gender, class, caste, religion or race based discrimination. After their success inEuropean and North American countries as ‘telecottages, they spread to the developing countriesof Africa, Latin America and Asia under various nomenclatures, such as Village KnowledgeCentres (VKCs), Community Multi-media Centres (CMCs), Community Information Centres(CICs), Infocenters, Community Technology Centers (CTCs), Multipurpose CommunityTelecentres (MCTs), Common/Citizen Service Centres (CSCs), or school-based telecentres. Thisstrong telecentre movement sweeping across the globe further strengthens the argument thataccess to information and knowledge is essential for the holistic development of the society; andtelecentres, by providing unopposed public ICT access, help in bridging the digital divide andleading to the creation of ‘knowledge societies’.Initially revolving around the idea of enhancing rural community’s access to computers, Internetand other basic ICT facilities, over the years, the scope and scale of its activities have increasedmanifold. In addition to encouraging communication through traditional as well as emerging ICTs,31 “Telecentre 2.0 is a general model of a mature telecentre that does away with the need for any further piloting oftelecentres as a development mechanism. Now that several countries are forging ahead with national telecentreprogrammes, those that lag behind can learn from the early international experiences and they can implement nationaltelecentre programmes without conducting further experimentation… Telecentre 2.0 exists in the telecentre ecosystem, anetwork of telecentres, information providers and support institutions that serves to strengthen the movement towardswidespread enjoyment of the benefits that telecentres bring.” Harris, Roger (2007) Telecentre 2.0: beyond pilotingtelecentres, APDIP e-Note 14/ 2007. Bangkok: UNDP-APDIP.ssharma Page 11 10/16/2012
  12. 12. it includes local knowledge and content generation and dissemination; capacity building, not onlyin terms of imparting computer literacy, but also enabling people to use traditional media, such ascommunity television and radio to empower themselves; provision of a number of services andinformation related to government schemes to promote micro-financing and micro-enterprises;community development and awareness generation; etc. Their introduction in the developingcountries has transformed them from telecentres to knowledge centres. 32 The prime objective ofsetting up these telecentres is not only taking ICTs to the deprived and underserved; but alsoensuring its actual appropriation by them to access value added information, knowledge andservices and use the same for their overall advancement.All the above mentioned telecentre activities presuppose the involvement of various stakeholdersand MSPs hold a special place in this regard. MSPs are essential for establishing the telecentres,creating appropriate services and content for them, creating backward and forward linkages forthem, making them sustainable and so on. In other words, such an ambitious program requiresthe collaboration of all sectors of the society for creating the ‘telecentre ecosystem’, an enablingenvironment in which telecentres can take root and grow. An ecosystem is “a community oforganisms together with their physical environment, viewed as a system of interacting andinterdependent relationships…”33 and when applied to the telecentres, the community oforganisms/ actors comprise telecentre managers and operators, service providers and contentdevelopers, software developers, Global and local IT companies, donors, Civil SocietyOrganizations (CSOs), the policy makers and the government, and above all, the community.2.2 Creating a Space for ‘Networks’ Within the MSP DialogueThe MSPs, especially in the telecentre context, are not only about partnerships between thevarious actors of the ecosystem, but also about creating networks and enabling networkingbetween the partners to sustain the ecosystem. A network is primarily “an extended group ofpeople with similar interests or concerns who interact and remain in informal contact for mutualassistance or support.”34 These are mechanisms for supporting and sustaining any partnership.They are more communication focused, so the MSPs benefit and become more sustainablethrough effective and appropriate networking. In fact, networking adds value to it and at a laterstage, MSPs, especially the long term ones with a huge partnership base, like Mission 2007,have to focus more on networking to keep all the partners engaged and derive the maximumbenefits from the partnership.Of late, telecentre networks have started appearing in different parts of the world. Together, theystrive to solve the emergent problems and challenges, make the telecentres viable socialenterprises and consolidate the overall telecentre movement. A telecentre network refers to “anygroup of people working in telecentres whose members come together to learn from each otherand cooperatively access services. Some networks are informal groups, simply using an e-mail32 “The term Knowledge Centre was used to stress the need for converting generic information into location- specificinformation and for training local women and men for adding value to information. Value-added information isappropriately referred to as knowledge and hence the title “Knowledge Centre”, Page 6 in MSSRF (2004a) ‘Mission 2007:every village a knowledge centre- a roadmap’. Mission 2007 Secretariat, MSSRF, Chennai. Available online at Ecosystem. The American Heritage® Science Dictionary. Houghton Mifflin Company. Available onlineat: (accessed: November 07, 2007).34 Network. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton MifflinCompany, 2004. (accessed: February 01, 2008).ssharma Page 12 10/16/2012
  13. 13. list and occasional meetings to connect people working in telecentres. Others are more formalassociations, offering concrete services that help their members with day-to-day telecentre tasks,such as business management, technical troubleshooting, and service delivery. The commonthread is that networks are about telecentre people working together to make their centres moreeffective, sustainable, and valuable to the communities they serve” (Fillip & Foote, 2007: 149).The above definition talks specifically about networks of telecentre managers, which is essentialfor learning and sharing of best practices. But to ensure the sustainability of these telecentrenetworks, another type of network is required, i.e., that of the service providers, technical supportgroups, academia (curriculum developers for capacity building), organizations with content andservices, government agencies, donors, etc. It is important to establish two way linkages betweenthese networks.Moreover, telecentre networks have to be understood in two ways: as a network of individualentrepreneurs owning a rural telecentre or information kiosk, such as the Rwanda TelecentreNetwork (RTN)35 and other networks in Africa; and as a network of organisations, like the Mission2007, which has partners like MSSRF, TARAhaat, ITC’s eChaupal, NASSCOM Foundation,Microsoft, and so on, having their respective telecentre initiatives (sometimes with their trademarktelecentre models, evolved over a period of time). The primary aim of this network is to scale upthe telecentre program at the national level. While the former network acts as a support systemfor the individual telecentre managers, the latter helps in curbing the ‘reinventing the wheelsyndrome’ and limiting the duplication of efforts by encouraging sharing and learning amongorganisations having their own telecentre networks and their own telecentre ecosystems. Apartfrom the Mission 2007 telecentre network of India, such networks are gradually emerging in otherSouth Asian countries, like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, as well.3. MSP Application in Mission 20073.1 Envisioning the National Scale upAround “the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 21 st century many debates at theinternational, regional and national levels concluded that access to information through ICT woulddirectly eliminate poverty and allow low income countries to leapfrog to the level of rich industrialcountries” (Weigel and Waldburger, 2004:16-17). The national scale up envisioned by Prof. M. S.Swaminathan36 under the aegis of a ‘National Alliance for Mission 2007: Every Village aKnowledge Centre’ or Mission 2007 tried to reaffirm this hypothesis. Mission 2007 is defined as a“coalition of the concerned” to “facilitate and accelerate the spread of Village Knowledge Centre(VKC) movement” 37 in India for enhancing the livelihood opportunities of rural communities andaid their overall development. This movement did not aim only to create a physical structure like atelecentre in every Indian village, but aimed higher, at a seemingly platonic plane, to transform35 The Rwanda Telecentre Network (RTN) was launched in 2006 through the efforts of Paul Barera, the manager ofNyamata telecentre (one of the first telecentres set up in Rwanda in 2003) and While its counterpartsstruggled to survive, it emerged as a successful model primarily because of the tireless efforts of its manager. Read moreat:;; Prof. Swaminathan is a world renowned agriculture scientist and social activist. After successfully spearheading theIndian ‘Green Revolution’, he is now keen to convert it into the ‘Ever-green Revolution’ through knowledge connectivity inthe Indian rural areas, and by ensuring digital inclusion for all.37 MSSRF (2004c) National Alliance for Mission 2007: Every Village a Knowledge Centre (Mobilising the Power ofPartnership)’. Mission 2007 Secretariat, MSSRF, Chennai. Page 10. Available online at: Page 13 10/16/2012
  14. 14. ‘every Indian village into a knowledge centre’, thus paving the way for the emergence of‘knowledge societies’ across rural India.The prelude to the national scale up was the Information Village Research Project (IVRP),supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) 38 and implemented by theM. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) 39. The IVRP, in turn, was conceptualizedaround a larger initiative called the ‘Bio-Village’ project initiated in 1991 by MSSRF. 40 Next year,in 1992, MSSRF organized an interdisciplinary dialogue on information technology, ‘Reaching theUnreached’.41 The main recommendation of this dialogue was that ICTs have a major role to playin promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development in the developing world. It,consequently, led to the implementation of the Information Village Research Project (Bhatnagaret al, 2003:1).Starting small in 1998 with the establishment of knowledge centres in three villages ofPondicherry, the IVRP project extended this facility to a few more villages, taking the total totwelve. After overcoming initial hiccups and improving the programme along the way based onthese, presently, the project has attained an iconic status among ICT4D and telecentre initiativesacross the world and serves as a model for upcoming telecentre programs. The experiencegained from the pilot inspired the implementers to use ‘social inclusion’, ‘reaching the unreached’and ‘voicing the voiceless’ as the guiding principles for replicating this model in other regions.They also realized that the information needs of the people vary in terms of a) geographical area,b) gender and c) physical disabilities, thus requiring a knowledge base capable of catering tosuch specific needs and demands. It gave them the opportunity to experiment with a variety ofcommunication technologies for transferring (and disseminating) information (voice, data, image,etc.) between the knowledge centres; and connectivity options, such as Internet, VHF two-wayradio, spread spectrum, WorldSpace Radio, satellite communication using C and Ku bands andlow-cost wireless (208.11) technology. 42 It also brought about some fundamental transformationin the thinking around ‘Community Informatics’ (CI)43 in general and telecentres in particular.3.2 The Paradigm Shift Engineered by IVRPProjecting telecentres as knowledge centres38 IDRC is a Canadian Crown corporation that works in close collaboration with researchers from the developing world intheir search for the means to build healthier, more equitable, and more prosperous societies. www.idrc.ca39 Founded in 1988 as a non profit trust by Prof. M. S. Swaminathan, the Chennai based M.S. Swaminathan ResearchFoundation strives to achieve employment oriented economic development in Indian rural areas to address the problemsof poverty, gender discrimination and environmental degradation. It believes that socially equitable and environmentallysustainable development can be accomplished through the application of Science and Technology. www.mssrf.org40 The Bio-Village project was implemented in 19 villages in the Union Territory of Puducherry (formerly known asPondicherry). It aimed at enhancing the living conditions of people by offering multiple livelihood opportunities,improvement in sanitation, development of inland aquaculture, and integrated pest management.41 Swaminathan, M. S. (ed.) (1993) Reaching the Unreached: Information Technology- A dialogue. Chennai: MacmillanIndia Ltd.42 MSSRF (2004c)’National Alliance for Mission 2007: Every Village a Knowledge Centre (Mobilising the Power ofPartnership)’. Mission 2007 Secretariat, MSSRF, Chennai. Available online at: Community Informatics (CI) has emerged as a framework for systematically approaching information systems from thecommunity perspective. It refers to the “application of information and communication technology (ICT) to enable andempower community processes. The objective of CI is to use ICT to enable the achievement of community objectivesincluding overcoming “digital divides” both within and between communities.” Gurstein, Michael (2007). What isCommunity Informatics (and why does it matter)? Milan: Polimetrica. Pp 11.ssharma Page 14 10/16/2012
  15. 15. Among all the contemporary projects, the IVRP was a trend setter in several ways. This projectalso brought about a paradigm shift in the prevailing Western thinking on telecentres as ICTaccess and training centres, helping the poor and the marginalized living in remote andunderserved areas to access information and equip themselves with the skills required tocompete in the emerging job market, which had become very IT skills intensive. 44 In addition tocorroborating this thinking, the Indian experiment also projected the telecentres as ‘knowledgecentres’ providing the village communities value added information and knowledge, which islocation specific, need and demand based, timely and relevant for the community.Recognizing and respecting traditional knowledgeAnother important breakthrough made by the IVRP was reclaiming due respect for the local/traditional knowledge available within the village communities, which was gradually dying out inwant of recognition and acceptance when pitted against stiff competition from the scientificcommunity and knowledge. Even scientific knowledge was not readily available to them whenthey needed it the most due to lack of efficient transfer/ delivery mechanisms. Thus, in addition toproviding access to and training in the use of ICTs, the knowledge centres have another dualagenda: taking the scientific and modern knowledge to the rural people and at the same time,aggregating and archiving the local wisdom or the ‘dying wisdom’ residing with the villagers. 45Ensuring vertical and horizontal accumulation and transfer of knowledgeThis way, the knowledge centre facilitates not only vertical transfer of knowledge, but also itshorizontal accumulation for future transfer and use. This is based on the premise of bridging notonly the ‘digital divide’ but also the gap between the ‘lab’ and the ‘land’. Through the years, thecommunication between the lab and the land was mutually exclusive, although betweenthemselves, they had enough opportunities. Wherever such linkages were present, they werepredominantly one sided with the scientific community providing top down solutions without takinginto account the local conditions. To fill in this gap, the knowledge centres seek to create two waylinkages between the lab and the land.46Infusing a participatory and bottom up approach to local developmentAt the same time, they infused a ‘bottom up approach’ to development at the grassroots level tomake it more responsive to the local necessities and demands, and to everything dealing with thevillage communities. They involved the community as a stakeholder in their own development andpromoted the participatory approach to address local challenges. The whole process of launchingthe telecentre model experimented upon and presented by them is also highly community basedand participatory. This included need assessment at the community level and aggregatingservices and information based on these findings, and entrusting the management of thetelecentre in the hands of the community.4744 Murray, Bill; Cathy Murray and Simon Brooks (2001) Training Telecentre Managers, Staff and Users. Available onlineat: (in Perspectives on Distance Education-Telecentres: Case Studies & Key Issues- Management, Operations, Applications, Evaluation, edited by Latchem, Colinand David Walker, Commonwealth of Learning, 2001. available online at MSSRF (2004c)’National Alliance for Mission 2007: Every Village a Knowledge Centre (Mobilising the Power ofPartnership)’. Mission 2007 Secretariat, MSSRF, Chennai. Available online at: op cit47 Bhatnagar, Subhash; Ankita Dewan, Magui Moreno Torres, Parameeta Kanungo (2003) ‘M. S. Swaminathan ResearchFoundation’s Information Village Research Project (IVRP), Union Territory of Pondicherry’. World Bank. Available onlinessharma Page 15 10/16/2012
  16. 16. ‘Collaboration’ as the key to making the telecentre sustainable and relevantMoreover, the implementation of the IVRP also led the implementers to believe that such aresource intensive initiative cannot be conceived in isolation and requires the collaboration of allthe sectors of the society including the government. It taught the necessity of mobilizing the‘power of partnership’ at various levels to realize the goal of setting up the VKCs. 48 Thus, theimplementers forged a number of crucial partnerships with the local people, hospitals, veterinarycollege and hospital, local administration, local service providers, Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) units of the IT sector and so on to enhance the relevance of the knowledge centres andensure its success.Identifying and empowering local champions (grassroots academicians) to manage thetelecentresAnother point emphasized by this project was the development of the human capital to take upthe challenge of converting every village into a knowledge centre. The Jamshetji Tata NationalVirtual Academy for Rural Prosperity (NVA)49 was set up to realize this objective. It aims to selectone woman and one man from each Indian village and train them to take forward the knowledgerevolution in rural India.50 They are people with extraordinary skills and leadership qualities whostrive to change their own and their community’s life. In the words of Prof. Swaminathan, they arethe ‘grassroots academicians’. On their selection, they are conferred with the title of NVA fellows,the torch bearers of the knowledge revolution in rural India. The President of India has alsofelicitated them as “the celebration of our rural core competence.” 513.3 The Enabling Environment for Telecentre Scale up in IndiaApart from the MSSRF-IDRC initiative, several other government agencies, state governments,district administrations, CSOs and private sector enterprises were experimenting with e-governance, e-commerce and social entrepreneurship in the rural areas. Together, theseinitiatives helped in reaffirming the faith in the catalytic role of ICTs in bringing about sustainabledevelopment in rural India. They experimented with various innovative ICT tools (with varyingdegrees of success) to empower the rural people. Prominent among such initiatives were:52, 53at: MSSRF (2004c)’National Alliance for Mission 2007: Every Village a Knowledge Centre (Mobilising the Power ofPartnership)’. Mission 2007 Secretariat, MSSRF, Chennai. Available online at: The Jamshetji Tata National Virtual Academy for Rural Prosperity (NVA) was formed in August 2003 through thecollaborative efforts of MSSRF and the Tata Trust. Its fellows are local champions, who, regardless of their educationalstatus (some of them having education up to the primary level only!), have shown leadership qualities and have dared todo something different to empower themselves and the community around them. They have also motivated developmentpractioners to look at grassroots realities from their point of view and make such information more objective and unbiased.They are the repositories of traditional knowledge; therefore, they are recognized as the ‘grassroots academicians’ andhonoured with NVA fellowship. www.mssrf-nva.org50 MSSRF (2005) Jamshetji Tata National Virtual Academy for Rural Prosperity, Mission 2007 Secretariat, MSSRF,Chennai. Available online at: Read the speech online at: Most of these projects are described in great detail with their positive and negative aspects in: Harris, Roger and RajeshRajora (2006) Empowering the Poor: Information and Communication Technology for Governance and PovertyReduction. New Delhi: Elsevier.53 A description of key e-initiatives in India is also available at IT For Change’s Bridging Development Realities AndTechnological Possibilities portal that can be accessed at: Page 16 10/16/2012
  17. 17. Computer aided administration of registration department (CARD), Hyderabad, AndhraPradesh (1998) - This project sought to provide encumbrance and valuation certificates andother registration services online to the consumers.Warana Wired Village Project, Warana, Maharashtra (1999) - Launched by the IT Task Forceof the PM’s Office and NIC, Pune, Maharashtra, its main objective was to demonstrate the impactof ICTs in accelerating the development of 70 villages around Warana by establishingcomputerized facilitation booths (info kiosks) linked to the Central Computer Network at Warana.Bhoomi, Bangalore, Karnataka (1999-2000) - This digitization of land records project was atrend setter among e-governance initiatives.Gyandoot, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh (2000) - It was one of the most hailed initiatives in e-governance and went on to receive the Stockholm Challenge Award.e-Chaupal, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh (2000)- Launched by a private sector company, ITC, thisproject was designed to streamline the company’s dealings with farmers, initially to procure farmproduce directly from the farmers. Over the time, other social services were also integrated intothis model.TARAhaat, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh (2000) - It was started by Development Alternatives with anumber of partners in a few north Indian states. It aimed to provide information based andentertainment services to the underserved rural markets.Fast, Reliable, Instant and Efficient Network for the Disbursement of Services (FRIENDS),Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala (2000)- This one stop service centre was created to provide publicservices, esp. those related to the payment of various bills and taxes, such as electricity,telephone, property tax, etc. to the citizens.Akshaya, Mallappuram, Kerala (2001)- It started off as a joint venture between local bodies,such as panchayats in rural areas, municipalities in urban areas and private entrepreneurs in theMallappuram district of Kerala to set up Community Technology Centres (CTCs) for bridging thedigital divide by providing community access to computers and Internet.Mahitishakti, Panchmahal, Gujarat (2001) – Here was another step towards e-governancethrough telecentres. It provides information on various e-governance services, updation on ruraldevelopment work and some Global Information System (GIS) related functions.Community Information Centres (CIC), Sikkim (2001)- This DIT and NIC joint venture waspiloted in seven North Eastern states in 2001 and sought to provide e-governance, e-health, e-education, e-business and other services through telecentres called CICs.e-Seva, Hyderabad and Secunderabad (2001), Andhra Pradesh- an initiative to issue birth anddeath certificates and driving licenses online in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad.Sustainable Access in Rural India (SARI), Madurai, Tamilnadu (2001)- This project waslaunched in collaboration with nLogue Communications to provide telemedicine and a number ofother services to the rural community.Gramdoot, Jaipur, Rajasthan (2002)- Implemented by the Rajasthan government in partnershipwith a private sector company, Aksh Optifibre limited, this project sought to provide e-governanceservices to the rural community. It also provides high speed non dial up Internet connection torural households.Janamitra, Jhalawar, Rajasthan (2002) - This was a joint venture of UNDP and the IndianGovernment. Based on rural intranet, it provides e-governance, e-education, e-health and otherinformation services to rural community in the Jhalawar district of Rajasthan.India Agriland, Nellakuppam, Kerala (2003) - the EID Parry company set up rural informationkiosks for sugarcane farmers in association with the nLogue communications Pvt. Ltd. It providesssharma Page 17 10/16/2012
  18. 18. all informations relevant for the farmers, such as market information, weather forecasts and otherservices. (Also see the attached table and map)3.4 The Mission 2007 MSP ModelThe IVRP and its contemporary ICT4D initiatives demonstrated that an enabling environment forthe scale up was already present in India. The only thing missing was a common platform toshare and learn from the successes and failures of each other. All these experiments were beingcarried out mostly in isolation, oblivious of other similar initiatives. Mission 2007 sought to bridgethis gap by bringing together these and a number of other partners essential for embarking upona national telecentre or knowledge centre movement.The idea of the national scale up was developed around the ‘Scalability, Sustainability andCollaboration’ or SSC framework54 that defines the contours of its conceptual and operationalframework. Here, ‘collaboration’, particularly a multi-stakeholder one, stands out as the mostimportant factor determining both the scalability and sustainability factors. Therefore, amongother things, the scale up was seen as an experiment bed for exploring, building, and maintainingpartnerships and collaborations/ alliances between different sectors of the society. Since the ideaof conceiving anything so ambitious within the traditional PPP approach was considered to behighly unrealistic for the very survival of Mission 2007, it leveraged upon the MSP paradigm.Reflecting the MSP spirit, Prof. Swaminathan made it explicit that “the need to map the skills andstrengths of the 41 members of the National Alliance on ICTs (as on July 9, 2004) wasrecognised within the strategic framework. The commitment from all these members was also areflection of the fact that while each player would continue to have an individual agenda and thatindividual strengths may vary, collective strength would be considerable. It appears thus that allthe players need to establish links among each other for addressing problems ranging fromconnectivity to content.”55 Being a very resilient approach, it was adopted and adapted by Mission2007 in a very unique way, complementing the uniqueness of the MSP approach. The collectivestrength of MSP was also leveraged upon to overcome the ‘forever pilot syndrome’ 56 from whichmost of the ICT4D and telecentre initiatives continue to suffer.3.4.1 Deviating from the ‘ideal type’The uniqueness of the Mission 2007 MSP approach lies in envisaging an alliance of not onlymutually opposing sectors of the society, but also creating sub alliances at different inter-sector orintra sector levels, such as policy makers, planners, social investors and practitioners andgrassroots champions. It is more like an assorted combination of MSPs at different levels, goingdown the ladder to the states, districts and villages. This movement also enjoys the mandate ofan International Support Group (ISG), created specially for strengthening and generating54 MSSRF (2004b) Mission 2007: The March Towards a Knowledge Revolution- Needs, Challenges and Mechanisms.Mission 2007 Secretariat, MSSRF, Chennai. Available online at: Op cit56 The ‘forever pilot syndrome’ refers to the inability to move from the pilot study to program expansion at the regional orthe national level. This is constrained due to the challenges of the scale up. To understand the concept, see StuartMathison (2003) ‘ICTs and Human Development in Asia: on overcoming the forever pilot syndrome’. A discussion paperprepared for the Asia-Australasia Regional Conference of the International Telecommunications Society, Perth, Australia,22-24 June 2003. Foundation for Development Cooperation. Available online at: Last accessed on 27 September 2007.ssharma Page 18 10/16/2012
  19. 19. awareness about it at the international level. The distinguishing features of Mission 2007 as anMSP are: CSO led MSP platform: The lead in envisioning this alliance was taken by a CSO, the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF). Leadership driven alliance: This alliance is formed around the charisma of a leader/ visionary, Prof. M. S. Swaminathan, who played a crucial role in envisioning the alliance and bringing in all the partners, particularly the Indian government. MSP with an all inclusive agenda: Unlike other MSPs functioning in different parts of the world, it has an all inclusive agenda that spans across policy advocacy, resource mobilization (development of innovative and appropriate technology, creation of knowledge database, capacity building of the telecentre workers, etc.), overseeing the implementation of the program and finally, working towards making it sustainable. Alliances at various levels and for various purposes: In addition to developing a multi- stakeholder alliance at the national level, for operational purposes, the Mission 2007 has also promoted collaborations at various levels to address the challenges of ICT4D. These include creating institutional mechanisms at the state level to coordinate the implementation and synergisation of various programs, for example, constituting the Rajasthan State Steering Committee. It has also advocated for the creation of multi-sectoral content consortiums and capacity building programs in partnership with academic institutions, like the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and 57. Flexible and dynamic organizational structure: The organizational structure of Mission 2007 is modeled after the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). So, this partnership is not even institutionalized, except the Secretariat, which acts as the facilitator for Mission 2007 alliance. This is a deliberate arrangement to allow flexibility to this MSP. It also allows enough scope to mould itself to address emergent needs. This very characteristic of Mission 2007 has allowed its transition into the Grameen Gyan Abhiyan during its 4th convention58. Flexible and dynamic approach towards partnership building: Mission 2007 is an evolutionary MSP with an ever expanding partnership base. Any organization, which can identify with the broad objectives of Mission 2007, can join it through an informal procedure without being bound by any formal legal partnership agreements. But, in spite of having no formal, written agreement, all the partners are expected to contribute from their core competencies. Its huge partnership base is responsible for the hierarchical arrangement of stakeholders into a core of key stakeholders, surrounded by secondary and tertiary ones. This informal MSP is in the process of creating similar stakeholder engagements at various levels, with policy makers, planners, social investors, practitioners and grassroots academicians, to address issues related with ‘overcoming the forever pilot syndrome’. 59 Convergence of various initiatives: The principles of convergence and synergy are at the core of Mission 2007’s MSP approach. Driven by the vision of converting India into a digitally inclusive society, Mission 2007 sought to converge all the sporadic, but similar initiatives under its umbrella and built a huge partnership base to realize it. It does not intend to start57 is a social investment initiative implemented by IDRC and funded by Microsoft, Swiss DevelopmentCooperation (SDC) and IDRC.; www.idrc.ca58 MSSRF (2007) ‘Fourth Convention of the National Alliance for Mission 2007: Every Village a Knowledge Center, 1-3August: Statement’. Available online at: Page 19 10/16/2012
  20. 20. anything afresh or go into the implementation mode; rather its strategy has been to build upon not only various ongoing telecentre and ICT4D initiatives, but also upon Indian government’s National Missions, such as the National Rural Health Mission, National Rural Employment Guarantee Plan, Education for All, and other such programs. 60 This is essential to contain any duplication of efforts and wastage of resources. Community as one of the main stakeholders, not beneficiary: Most of the partnership models tend to see the community as a beneficiary. They don’t foresee any role for them except this. But Mission 2007 considers them as one of the main stakeholders, since they are going to be influenced by the end results of the partnership. Therefore, it has always advocated for the participatory and bottom up approach, which helped in transforming the status of the community from ‘beneficiary’ (without any control over or stake in their own development) to that of one of the stakeholders (with equal stake in decision making concerning them and their development). This is reflected through all the Mission 2007 conventions as well, which have served as interfaces between the policy makers and the knowledge workers. It has also influenced the government and private sectors to adopt this approach.3.5 Understanding the Mission 2007 MSPAt the conceptual level, Mission 2007 can be interpreted as a combination of design as well asimplementation oriented MSP. It can be analysed around its two inter-related and complementaryaspects, which are: c) the development aims around which all Mission 2007 multi-stakeholder processes are planned and organized; and d) the Mission 2007 MSP with its constituents/ partners.3.5.1 Development AimsThis initiative is inspired by the vision of transforming Indian rural area into a digitally inclusiveknowledge society. Its roots can be traced to the vision of Professor Swaminathan who broughtabout self sufficiency in food grain production through the Indian ‘Green Revolution’. Presently,he is keen to transform it into an ‘Evergreen Revolution’ 61 by increasing human productivitythrough knowledge connectivity, 62 which is considerably lacking in the rural areas. His knowledgeconnectivity concept is driven by i) pro-poor, pro-women and pro-nature emphasis; and ii)demand-driven, need-based and people-centric model to development as opposed to supply-driven, technological magic wand to solving problems in society.Initially, the development aims of Mission 2007 were described as promoting rural communities’access to knowledge, thereby enhancing their livelihood opportunities. Its other objectivesincluded ‘reaching the unreached’ and ‘voicing the voiceless’, transforming knowledge receiversinto knowledge creators; developing user friendly applications and connectivity and creating a setof easily accessible databases at various levels for imparting knowledge to the poor andmarginalized communities. In other words, these are the design parameters of Mission 2007 orthe 5Cs,63 of the Mission 2007 ecosystem.3.5.2 The Mission 2007 Ecosystem60 Read the story at: Swaminathan, M.S. (2004) “The country should move to ever green revolution.” (March 31)62 National Commission on Farmers (2005) Serving Farmers and Saving Farming, Ministry of Agriculture, Government ofIndia. Available online at: Page 20 10/16/2012
  21. 21. The 5Cs refer to: connectivity (which also implies appropriate access devices), content (andservices which are appropriate for the local community), capacity building (of both the telecentreoperators or ‘knowledge workers’, and the user community), care and management (of thetelecentre) and coordination (at various levels as well as with various agencies providing theservices and content, thereby emphasizing the ‘infomediary’ role of the knowledge workers).63 Initially, Mission 2007 identified seven areas that required attention to implement the telecentre programme at thenational level. These were: connectivity; content; space applications; organization, management, monitoring andevaluation; training, capacity building and the election of fellows; resource mobilization; and policy issues. Since some ofthese areas overlapped, Professor Swaminathan developed the five ‘C’ formulae for Mission 2007 in consultation withother Mission 2007 stakeholders. MSSRF (2003) ‘Village Information Centres: Harnessing local knowledge via interactivemedia’, MSSRF. Mission 2007 Secretariat, MSSRF, Chennai. Available online at: Page 21 10/16/2012
  22. 22. Coordination is the most critical component of the Mission 2007 ecosystem since it strengthensand supports all the other Cs as well. It is essential to influence government policies, establishingproper connectivity and procuring appropriate access devices by negotiating with serviceproviders and hardware developers; to create a central database of content and services atvarious levels with the help of the academia, relevant government agencies and departments andthe grassroots communities, who possess traditional knowledge and establishing linkages with the Connectivity & Access Devices Coordination Content & Services The 5Cs of Mission 2007 Ecosystem Care & Capacity Management Buildingcontent generators and providers; for engaging stakeholders to develop open curriculums for thetraining and capacity building of the telecentre managers; and for setting up suitable mechanismsfor the general care and management of the telecentres by establishing linkages with the serviceand maintenance providers. All the Mission 2007 stakeholder processes are planned andorganized around the achievement of these 5Cs.3.6 The Partnering ProcessThe process of Mission 2007 partnership formation began around the idea of using ICTs as toolsfor the collation and dissemination of knowledge (value-added information) through VillageKnowledge Centres. A number of policy makers’ workshops, national consultations and steeringcommittee meetings were organized to help in building its partnership base. The foremost amongthese was the Policy Makers Workshop organized in October 2003 to discuss MSSRFs’ IVRPssharma Page 22 10/16/2012
  23. 23. experience. During this workshop, the policy makers made several general recommendations tomake the resource center experience more relevant in the Indian as well as global context. Basedon these recommendations, Prof. M.S. Swaminathan first articulated the need for a NationalAlliance in order to take the benefits of ICT enabled knowledge to resource poor families in otherparts of the country. The main recommendations for policy makers were related to locally relevantcontent, community media, gender inclusion, financial sustainability, job-led economic growth andpolitical commitment.64This workshop helped in creating a consensus around using ICTs for rural development. At thesame time, it provided an opportunity for exploring appropriate stakeholders or partners for thescale up. It was followed by the first MSSRF-NVA Steering Committee meeting in February, 2004that provided some concrete ideas on setting up the knowledge centers. The launch of the ‘everyvillage a knowledge center’ movement was decided during this meeting. NVA, IGNOU, 11 stateuniversities, OWSA, NASSCOM Foundation, IITs, MICROSOFT India, ITC and other governmentand non government organizations were the main collaborators along with MSSRF. 65In May 2004, MSSRF and NVA held a National Consultation on forming a National Alliance forAgenda 2007: Every Village a Knowledge Centre.66 It was followed by the formal launch ofMission 2007, the improvised name for Agenda 2007, during a two day Policy Makers’ Workshoporganized by MSSRF and One World South Asia (OWSA) that ensued a discussion on theintroduction of an ICT enabled knowledge revolution in rural India and the organizational structureto facilitate it. OWSA and NASSCOM Foundation were given key positions on the SteeringCommittee along with MSSRF and ‘Task Forces’ were created to take care of the 5Cs of Mission2007. Two important events preceded this launch: a) MSSRF and OWSA conducted an onlinediscussion on info kiosks on the dgroups platform.67 b) Parallel to the workshop, a videoconference was organized in collaboration with the British Council in which participants from fourmetros exchanged their views on the feasibility of an info kiosk movement in India.By this time, the number of Mission 2007 stakeholders had increased from the 41 foundingpartners (MSSRF, 2004a) to 89 (MSSRF, 2004c). Being an open and evolutionary partnershipplatform, currently the number of Mission 2007 partners is about 400. 68 Mission 2007 follows avery informal partnership policy without compelling the partners to enter into any kind of formalagreement with the alliance. It is a hierarchically arranged MSP platform with a core of keystakeholders, surrounded by secondary and tertiary stakeholders. In spite of having no formal,written agreement, all the partners are expected to contribute from their core competencies.Although the concept of equity is questionable in the context of such a broad based and evolving64 MSSRF (2003) ‘Village Information Centres: Harnessing local knowledge via interactive media’, MSSRF. Mission 2007Secretariat, MSSRF, Chennai. Available online at: MSSRF (2004a) Towards a Rural Knowledge Revolution: Mission 2007- Every Village a Knowledge Centre- aroadmap’. Mission 2007 Secretariat, MSSRF, Chennai. Available online at MSSRF (2004a) Towards a Rural Knowledge Revolution: Mission 2007- Every Village a Knowledge Centre- aroadmap’. Mission 2007 Secretariat, MSSRF, Chennai. Available online at OWSA (2004) Information Kiosks in Every Village by 2007: Myth or Reality. New Delhi:OWSA68 MSSRF (2007) ‘Fourth Convention of the National Alliance for Mission 2007: Every Village a Knowledge Center, 1-3August: Statement’. Available online at: Page 23 10/16/2012
  24. 24. partnership, transparency is ensured in goal setting, decision making and implementation throughits non institutional organizational structure.3.6.1 Mission 2007 Stakeholders CompositionMission 2007 envisages partnership between the government, civil society organizations,international funding organizations, academia, and the private sector. The Mission 2007stakeholders can be categorized into five stakeholder/interest groups—International fundingagencies, government organizations, private sector and academia, with the CSOs being the mostdiversified group, representing research & development, capacity building & training andimplementation organizations. Following is the distribution of the founding stakeholders of Mission2007. Mission 2007 Founding Stakeholder composition No. of Founding Percentage Sr. No. Stakeholders Members (%) 1 Academia 9 22 International Funding 2 Agencies 2 5 3 Public Sector Orgs. 11 27 4 Private Sector 7 17 5 CSOs 12 29 6 Total 41 100Currently, it looks something like this, although because of the dynamic nature of this partnership,it is not easy to establish the exact distribution. But there is no doubt that the number of CSOpartners has increased dramatically over the years.ssharma Page 24 10/16/2012
  25. 25. 3.6.2 Partnership DriversIdentification with Mission 2007 overall objectives is the main driving force for partnershipbuilding; although hidden drivers/motivations are also operating at different levels, e.g., theprivate sector, especially the IT industry foresees the opening up of a huge rural market as aconsequence of this initiative. Several of its partners had already experimented with different e-initiatives in Indian rural areas. They joined to pool in their resources and competencies; andsynergize their efforts. As perceived by different stakeholders, the key “drivers” that encouragetheir participation in Mission 2007 are:Civil Society: An analysis of Mission 2007 partnership composition reveals that most of the civilsociety partners of Mission 2007 have been using ICTs for development and to empower ruralcommunities socially and economically in rural India. As their aims synchronized perfectly, theyshared the same platform to realize their objectives.Private Sector: Although, the involvement of the private sector in Mission 2007 has been drivenby social responsibility concerns, the motive of the expansion of their product market throughrural penetration cannot be ruled out. This can be regarded as the hidden, but very strongincentive to join Mission 2007. Some of the private sector mission 2007 partners are alsoengaged in promoting e-trade in rural areas to integrate the local market with the global one.Since they are buying products directly from the farmers and local producers, they areempowering the people economically. With the abolishment of the middleman system, thefarmers and local producers are able to make maximum profits. They are also strongly committedtowards developing rural needs and demand specific softwares, ICT tools and techniques toenable the implementation of the VKC project.Public Sector: As the public sector in India has realized the potentials of ICTs in increasing itsreach, effective implementation of development policies and services to the rural areas; and wasssharma Page 25 10/16/2012
  26. 26. actively engaged in various rural IT projects supported by the National e-Governance Plan(NeGP), its partnership in Mission 2007 was imperative. The key contribution of the public sectorlies in enacting pro-poor ICT policies and regulations to create the necessary infrastructure toenable ICT led development in Indian rural areas. Without the support of this sector, thedeveloping and Third World countries cannot envisage any ICT4D initiative. Garnering supportfrom the government and the public sector is Mission 2007’s most important achievement, sincethe Indian government happens to be the most resource rich and influential sector of the society,having considerable control over finances, infrastructure and connectivity.3.6.3 Partners’ ContributionsFollowing are the main contributions of different sectors:Government Organizations: policy enactments, changes and regulations related to ICTinfrastructure development; funding and implementation through the state and local governmentstructures.Private Sector: equipments, appropriate software technology, managerial capacity, training andcapacity building.Civil Society Organizations: vision and charting the roadmap to achieve Mission objectives, socialmobilization, appropriate content development, capacity building, facilitating implementation andmonitoring at village levelAcademia: research and development; distance learning programs; developing non formaleducational modules.International Funding Agencies: technical assistance through capacity building and financialsupport.Media: publicity and ally to outreach using traditional communication tools, such as communityradio and newspaper.3.6.4 Mission 2007 Secretariat: the partnership facilitatorWith the formation of its Secretariat, the function of partnership building was entrusted to it.Besides playing a key role in the expansion of Mission 2007 partnership base throughnegotiations, it also manages its web site, coordinates its media coverage, organizes meetingsand workshops, facilitates the implementation of its state chapters, etc. The Secretariat of Mission2007 is based at MSSRF, Chennai. The main officials who help in running the Secretariat are:Coordinator, content editors and web manager. As a facilitator that executes the work plan underMission 2007, it performs the following functions: a) Building and expanding the partnership base of Mission 2007; b) Providing support services to the Steering Committee; c) Supporting and coordinating the work of the Mission 2007 stakeholders; d) Convening periodic meetings of the National Alliance and the Steering Committee; e) Designing and launching Mission 2007 web site ( to provide detailed information about the objectives of the Mission, its roadmap and major milestones in its relatively short history and all relevant resources that conceptualize and define it. The site is updated regularly with news and stories about the progress of the Mission. f) Facilitating media coverage and communication on Mission 2007 through publications like Frontline, i4d and other portals, such as g) Setting up mailing lists for National Alliance members and task forces to facilitate sharing and exchange of knowledge among stakeholders.ssharma Page 26 10/16/2012