Friday, July 21, 2006

Evaluation of UNESCO's Community Multimedia Centres - Final Report

An interesting report, since UNESCO is planning a scale up of the CMC program and looking for partners to finance scale up activities. The methodology section mentions surveys and then no data is presented and the survey instruments are nowhere to be found. In the end, it reads like a typical qualitative evaluation -- nothing wrong with that -- and it does point to some significant challenges facing the CMC program.

Some snippets of interest to me:

(p. 21)" Of greater concern is the still very limited capacity within CMCs to systematically monitor and evaluate activities and use of hte CMC."

The mistake I see over and over again -- we must be failing to LEARN something -- is that M&E systems are set up to address the needs of the funding agency but are rarely developed by the people eventually responsible for implementing them and therefore fail to address the needs of the people directly supposed to benefit from the projects and the M&E systems put in place.

(p. 32)"... far too often donors try to impose business models on institutions that we would never try to do with similar institutions at home -- crisis centres, libraries, other social agencies and the like."

If it's donor funded, it should target those who can't afford the service and therefore a business model makes little sense. If it's a business model and people can afford to pay, then why is donor funding needed. Let's face it, we're all very confused about all this. You've got non-profit organizations increasingly trying to operate based on "business models" to compete with for-profits and for-profits who want to get in on the development business and develop social arms and philanthropic missions.... We're just messing up with our comfortable artificial boundaries.

(p. 35)"Efforts in achieving financial sustainability are forcing CMC managers to find ways of increasing turnover by giving emphasis to the paid services targeted to the sector of the population with purchasing power, losing the scope of activities targeted at poor or marginalized."

Not exactly surprising. What is needed is for donors to realize that while the CMCs and other telecenter types of establishments can generate some revenues from services to those who can afford them, they may need to continue subsidizing certain types of services that are targeted at those who can't afford them. So, when there are cybercafes, why not look at existing cybercafes that have been established based on a business model and work with them -- with $$ --to provide subsidized access to services targeting the poorer segments of society?