3 Jan 2011

FaceBook and Google : A Valuble Lesson for Telecentre Movement

Wish You all a Happy New Year!

Facebook has become most visited website in 2010 as well as most searched keyword of the year. The "facebook" search term has accounted for 3.48% of all searches, according to Hitwise. And it's a 207% increase of facebook search position from 2009. In US facebook with 8.93% user visits from US alone has beaten Google( 7.10%), Yahoo (6.82%), and YouTube (2.65%).

However, Facebook didn’t beat the traffic garnered by all of Google’s properties combined (9.85%). There are rumors that Facebook is planning to launch their own email and map services. The trend is for facebook to grow much stronger. There is also a trend for Google engineers to join facebook team. However Google who set new standards on web would not give up. It would be interesting to see their battle for supremacy on web. With the fast growing Asian internet users, we can expect more to join facebook membership. The question is how it will affect the members of both Google and facebook. Facebook announced that they have reached 500 million users mark. Google has only 180 million members. Where did rest come from? This mean most of the internet users are in facebook.

Facebook is not only the only rival of Google. Soho is planning to take more Google users with its killer office applications and cloud services. It would be interesting to see how Google will approach this internet war by changing its business plans. Google is already phasing out Google wave and restructuring Google Groups. One thing clear from this case, that there is no permanent king on web. Simple ideas and innovations are shifting balance of power.

When Telecentres were started there was no access to ICT in rural communities. Now individual ownership of computers has grown much. People have opened small one to two computer communication centers. There are new networks of ICT centers are blooming. The model of "Technology for the village" may not hold Telecentres in this growing competition. It’s still a question with 500 million users on facebook, why Telecentres are not becoming rich like facebook? Is this 500 million users does not represent much villagers? We need to findout! Even at telecentre.org we have less than 3000 members of 500 million of those on facebook. In e India Telecentre forum 2010 we had less than 20 members and Only one Telecentre operator who had to make it there with all difficulties.

The new blossoming of business oriented communication and ICT centers seem much sustainable due to their entrepreneurship spirit. But they lack social component of ICT. Hence they will not fulfill the needs of underserved which we are aiming through Telecentres. The current content and services model seems traditional when we compare new services potential in Telecentres. Telecentres would be challenged by their rivals emerging in corners of villages. It is a good scenario in terms of ICT capacity growth, however will not be quite productive in social change, bridging of the social and knowledge gaps and developing the society. Therefore taking an example of Facebook and Google case, Telecentres need to consider newer business and operating model becoming a strong network of social enterprises that provides attractive and valuable content and services to improve quality of human life.

If the Telecentre model that we are enjoying to last long. Telecentres need to change, transforming new challanges to opportunities through Social Innovations to create wealth for Telecentres. Social innovation does not come easy. It’s a spin off process of innovation, research and leadership having practical approaches that works well in rural communities. We have to find a new means of inclusion and engagement of grass roots in the conversation for development. I think that we don’t listen adequately. During several years working with Telecentres, I have found that Telecentre based development is a people driven process. The real champians are those on ground. We need to bring in high moral values and encouraging grassroots leaderships, recognition of good works, creating equal opportunities and transparency as essence of development. Telecentres hence needs to approach the process of development with practical strategies that serves the needs grass root Telecentres and such a development processes to be driven by brain rather than heart.

~ Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing ~

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