A Model for Economic Development With Telecentres and the Social Media: Overcoming Affordability Constraints

A Model for Economic Development With Telecentres and the Social Media: Overcoming Affordability Constraints

Abraham G. van der Vyver (Monash University, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3179-1.ch006

Abstract

In 2000 the General Assembly of the United Nations accepted their Millennium Declaration. Two of their main foci are the eradication of poverty and the economic upliftment of disadvantaged societies. In Thailand, three initiatives contributed to the eradication of poverty. The “One Tambon, One Product” (OTOP) that was launched in 2001 has as its mission to stimulate the economy by creating small economic hubs in each subdistrict (Tambon). The OTOP initiative grew exponentially and a total of 85,173 products have been registered by 2010. The growing network of telecentres helped to close the digital divide. It also anchored many of the OTOP projects. In the third instance, the social networks redefined the business environment and created new communication platforms to promote entrepreneurial hubs. The researcher combined field studies with content analysis of the social media in order to establish to what extent these drivers of poverty eradication have been integrated.
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Introduction

In September 2000 the General Assembly of the United Nations accepted their Millennium Declaration that inter alia made provision for poverty eradication and the protection of the environment (United Nations, 2000). A year later the road map for implementing the Millennium Declaration was formally unveiled. It made provision for eight goals, supported by 18 quantified and time-bound targets and 48 indicators, which became known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (The World Bank, 2013). The main foci are the protection of children’s rights, the eradication of poverty and the economic upliftment of disadvantaged societies. Gold (2005) applauded the goals because “they underscore the fact that tailored interventions in many sectors are essential if human development is to be achieved”. “By 2015, the leaders pledged, the world would achieve measurable improvements in the most critical areas of human development.” (Unicef, n.d.).

In Thailand a new initiative named “One Tambon, One Product” (OTOP) was launched in 2001. The initiative is based on the highly successful “One Village One Product” (OVOP) project that originated in Japan in 1979 (Shakya, 2013, 9). The main aim of the Thai project was to stimulate the rural economy by creating small economic hubs in each subdistrict (tambon). Each tambon (a municipal subdistrict) proposes one product to be its showcase. The OTOP initiative grew exponentially and a total of 85,173 products have been registered in 2010 (Shakya, 2013, 15).

The OTOP initiative was not the only huge success that occurred in Thailand since the turn of the century. The telecentre movement not only gained huge momentum, it was also creatively diversified to empower a large array of disadvantaged groups. The telecentres helped to bridge the huge digital divide that resulted from affordability, adoption and utilization. The integration of the OTOP initiative with the telecentre movement and its impact on the affordability of ICT services and initiatives will be addressed in the chapter.

Last but not least followed the formation of a tsunami of social networks. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Whatsapp, to name but a few, conquered cyberspace, in a short space of time. “Today’s consumer is more connected than ever, with more access to and deeper engagement with content and brands, thanks to the proliferation of digital devices and platforms (Nielsen, 2014). Those with outdated or no devices and those who could not afford access could still not share in the opportunities created by the new digital economy.

It didn’t take long before both the OTOP initiative as well as the telecentre movement jumped onto the social bandwagon to make use of these newly founded communication platforms. Affordability issues could now be addressed by way of co-operative Internet access and collective economic activities. online.

Dean-Swarray, Moyo and Stork (2013) painted a realistic picture of the present state of the art regarding the implementation of affordable ICTs:

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