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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Senegal mixes community and PCs
In a telecentre in Senegal
Telecentres are vital information hubs
Telecentres seem the epitome of Western life, a place electro-nomads can use to maintain their ties to friends and family.

But such communication centres are starting to appear in Senegal in increasing numbers and are proving just as valuable, albeit for different reasons.

The centres are helping workers in traditional professions and are also providing ways for people to get to grips with new technologies, ideas and occupations.

One centre is even helping a community fight off threats to evict it off land it has occupied for years by giving residents a chance to voice protests that would otherwise go unheard.

Help centre

The cybercafe in the Khadimou Rassoul suburb of Senegal's capital Dakar is more than just a place people go to use a computer.

Repairing a car, BBC
Car mechanics use computers and the web
It has become a vital information hub for the whole community that sometimes offers a literal lifeline for some local residents.

Many local businesses use the computers to store information about customers and their accounts. Some are using the net access to get more up to date information about their trade to help them do a better job.

"Now we have the chance to bill people properly," says Ibrahim Fall, a car mechanic who runs a repair shop near the telecentre.

"We also do a lot of training," he says "but the manuals were too expensive so we adapt stuff from the internet."

The help that the centre offers does not stop there.

Daba Ndaw, manager of the Khadimou Rassoul cybercafe, says it has the only telephone in the area and many people call in just to use that.

When they call in they find out about the other things that computers and communication can do for them and get more involved.

"The income from all this helps keep the place going," he says, "we charge less than other places so people are happy to pay."

Life on the line

The telecentre in the Al Baraka suburb of Dakar is fulfilling an even more important role.

Senegalese family
Women benefit from better informed midwives
Again the centre has one of the few telephone lines in the area and is regularly used by local midwives to get advice and help for difficult births.

The centre is also helping the community survive.

Much of the land that forms the suburb has been sold for development and residents were worried that they would be evicted.

The computer and telecentre in the Al Baraka suburb has become a rallying point for the community and has given its residents a place to make their feelings known and their voice heard.

Before the arrival of the centre the suburb was seen as a dangerous place and had no local representation.

But the centre has improved the profile of the area and given residents much needed respectability.

The profile of the area has risen to such an extent that the once looming threat of eviction is now receding.

The digital divide

Escaping poverty

Having a voice

Sharing knowledge

Staying healthy


See also:

10 Jul 02 | Country profiles
24 May 02 | Africa
20 Aug 02 | Business
16 Sep 02 | Business
26 Jun 02 | Business
02 Oct 02 | Technology
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