Extending Telecentre Coverage:
Rural telecentre program is a very costly implementation, as the biggest cost factors will be the massive transportation into the rural areas and also the deployment of satellite-based Internet gateway can be several times more costly than any broadband installation in the urban areas. Owing to its high in implementation cost, rural telecentre usually deployed at relatively strategic location among villages so to strike a balance to serve as many communities as possible. Even so, the strategic location may still be a few miles away for some of the villages. Villagers may still have to travel for hours in order to access the facilities provided at the telecentre. The traveling can be intense and time-consuming, by making those travel, villagers basically cannot go to their farms to carry out their daily works. Owing to this, the service coverage of the telecentre is relatively small and serving mostly the community who stay nearby. This sometimes created a fight among community wanting new telecentre to be deployed near their own village.
Riding on our research on the long-range wireless system, we have proposed to take advantage of this wireless technology and working together with our technology partner to blend in suitable products to create micro-telecentre sites that are self-sustainable in term of its power supply and sharing part of the main telecentre Internet connection. The micro-site of telecentre play a similar role as the main telecentre but at a smaller scale with minimal infrastructure investment.
The overall concept of the micro-site for telecentre (also known as the Mother-and-Sons Telecentre Concept) is to make use of existing houses in the village, for example the head man's house (if strategic) for the mounting the required equipment and system on the wall, antenna for wireless backhaul on the edge of the roof together with small pieces of solar panel array. Portal system, smart device charger system and lighting system for night activities, are all inclusive to create a comprehensive corner for the purpose of accessing to offline information at the portal or online information through the long-range wireless connection. By doing so, instead of getting the villagers to go to the main telecentre for services and connectivity, we bring the telecentre to the doorstep of the community, which shall be more encouraging and provide a non-intrusive adoption of ICT to their living. Another advantage of bringing the micro-site telecentre to the village will create another convenience to the community to contact and to be contacted by the outside world. In most remote rural areas, there usually has no communication services such as telephone network and villagers will have to travel a distance to areas with mobile signal coverage in order to make calls or to send messages. In remote rural areas, the telecentre is usually playing the role of a communication center for villagers to exchange messages with the outside world. We believe our micro-telecentre initiative will expand the role and services of the main telecentre in a very cost-effective way.
The long-range wireless system together with its relay stations being placed at a strategic high ground will form a large wireless backhaul network covering nearby villages possibly up to 10km away from the main telecentre. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to deploy micro-telecentres as planned for the TPOA programs' four Orang Asli sites due to unforeseen financial constraints at the project level.