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Global Development Institute

Remoteness, Exclusion and Telecentres in Mountain Regions: Analysing ICT-Based "Information Chains" in Pazos, Peru

Richard Heeks and Laura León Kanashiro


Communities in developing country mountain areas, in part due to their remoteness, find themselves excluded from social, political and economic systems; and excluded from access to resources.  This paper researches the impact on remoteness and exclusion of information and communication technologies (ICTs).  It utilises two models – the resource movement framework, and "information chains" – to analyse a telecentre in one district of mountainous Huancavelica, Peru's poorest region, set in the high Andes.

It finds ICTs enabling new and positive resource flows for the two key user groups: teenaged school students and young farmers.  These help to maintain social networks.  They also support information searches that have improved agricultural practice where other information chain resources have been available.  But non-use and ineffective use of the telecentre are found where information chain resources are lacking.  ICTs have some impact on intangible elements of remoteness.  In this particular example, they also offer access to some previously-excluded resources.  But they have not really addressed the systemic exclusions faced by mountain communities.  And they so far appear to be a technology of inequality; favouring those residents who begin with better resource endowments.

The paper concludes by offering some recommendations for mountain ICT project practice.

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Educator's guide

Synopsis questions

  1. Why are mountain areas important, and what challenges do they face?  What models can we use to understand the relation between ICTs and mountain communities?  [Part A].
  2. Describe the research location, Pazos, and the ERTIC project that it was a part of.  [Part B].
  3. In what ways was the Pazos telecentre used and not used; and by whom?  [Part C].
  4. What support does the research offer for the resource movement and information chain models?  What impact did ICTs have on remoteness and exclusion in this project?  What recommendations for practice are made?  [Part D].

Development questions

  1. Is there actually anything special about studying ICTs in mountain areas as compared to ICTs in rural areas in general?
  2. Are there other ways of characterising mountain communities that would help explain the role of ICTs in those communities?
  3. If you were to undertake an impact study of a mountain-area telecentre, what research methods would you use, and why?
  4. Would the impact on the mountain community be better or worse if a) no charge was made for telecentre usage; b) no controls were placed on how the telecentre was used?
  5. Find some other case evidence on ICTs in mountain areas.  Can you use the resource movement and/or the information chain models to analyse these cases?
  6. Find some other case evidence on ICTs in mountain areas.  Putting this together with the Pazos study, what is your conclusion: are ICTs a "good thing" or a "bad thing" for mountain areas?