The use of multipurpose community telecentres and their services in Malawi: the case of Lupaso Community Telecentre

Keywords: Malawi, digital divide, telecentres, multipurpose community telecentres, Lupaso Telecentre, rural areas, public computing facilities


Telecentres aim to bridge digital divides between rural and urban communities. In many developing countries, like Malawi, the assumption is that once telecentres are established, people will adopt them. The purpose of the study was to examine the factors influencing the use of telecentres in rural areas of developing countries by means of a case study of Lupaso Community Telecentre, in a remote region of Malawi. Following the example of a study of public computing facilities in Cape Town (Chigona & Licker 2008), the study employed Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) theory as a theoretical frame. Data were gathered through a mix of methodologies: questionnaires, interviews, observation, and records analysis. The study reveals that a large majority of users view the telecentre as an empowering project and are satisfied with its services. They perceive it to be improving human skills, helping the economy and strengthening the social capital of the surrounding community. However, it seems that the telecentre benefits only a small percentage of the community. Access is uneven. One surprising finding is that the centre’s Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are not the chief attraction. The factors that negatively impact on the use of the ICTs are lack of internet searching skills, frequent electricity blackouts, lack of local content, and fees charged. To fulfil their mission, it is recommended that telecentres in developing communities enhance their services with information literacy and literacy education programmes.


Download data is not yet available.


Abdulwahab, L. and Zulkhairi M. D. 2011. Effectiveness of telecentre using a model of Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT): structural equation modelling approach. Journal of Emerging Trends in Computing and Information Sciences, 2(9): 402-412.

Attwood, H., Diga, K., Braathen, E. and May, J. 2013. Telecentre functionality in South Africa: re-enabling the community ICT access environment. The Journal of Community Informatics, 9(4). [Online]. (27 June 2016).

Bailey, A. 2009. Issues affecting the social sustainability of telecentres in developing contexts: a field study of sixteen telecentres in Jamaica. The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, 36(4): 1-18.

Braun, V. and Clarke V. 2006. Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2): 77-101.

Chigalu, S. 2006. ICT for Sustainable Rural Development Telecentre Project: feasibility study findings report: challenges and opportunities on rural telecentre development in Malawi. [Presentation]. Ryalls Hotel, Blantyre, Malawi. 29 May. [Online]. (20 May 2013).

Chigona, W., Lekwane, O., Westcott, K. and Chigona, A. 2011. Uses, benefits and challenges of public access points in the face of growth of mobile technology. The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, 49(5): 1-14.

Chigona, W. and Licker, P. 2008. Using Diffusion of Innovations framework to explain communal computing facilities adoption among the urban poor. Information Technologies & International Development, 4(3): 57-73.

Chilimo, W.L. 2008. Information and communication technologies and sustainable livelihoods: a case of selected rural areas of Tanzania. PhD thesis. University of KwaZulu-Natal. [Online]. (5 July 2013).

Department of Immigration. Republic of Malawi. n.d. List of prescribed languages. [Online]. (2 April 2016).

Etta, F. E. and Parvyn-Wamahiu, S. Eds. 2003. Information and communication technologies for development. Vol. 1: the experience with community telecentre. Ottawa: International Development Research Centre.

Government Communication and Information Systems. 2013. The Government Development Communication Initiative: a response to democratic communication and citizen participation in South Africa. [Online]. (5 March 2016).

Gómez R., Hunt, P. and Lamoureux, B. 1999. Telecentre evaluation and research: a global perspective. In Telecentre evaluation and research: a global perspective. Report of an international meeting on telecentre evaluation. R. Gómez and P. Hunt, Eds. Ottawa: International Development Research Centre. 13-27.

Harris, R. 2001. Telecentres in rural Asia: towards a success model. Europe, 40(23): 71-111. [Online]. (3 July 2013).

Haseloff, A. M. 2005. Cybercafés and their potential as community development tools in India. The Journal of Community Informatics, 1(3). [Online]. (04 March 2014).

Huerta, E. and Sandoval-Almazán, R. 2007. Digital literacy: problems faced by telecenter users in Mexico. Information Technology for Development, 13(3): 217-232.

Human Development Report. 2015. Human Development Report 2015: Work for human development. New York: United Nations Development Programme.

Isaacs, S. 2007. Survey of ICT and education in Africa: Malawi country report. [Online]. (10 July 2015).

Kirkman, G. S., Cornelius, P., Sachs, J. and Schwab, K. 2002. Global information technology report, 2001-2002. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kumar, R. and Best, M.L. 2007. Social impact and diffusion of telecentre use: a study from the Sustainable Access in Rural India project. The Journal of Community Informatics, 2(3). [Online]. (1 April 2016).

Lesame, Z. 2006. Telecentres and sustainable community development in South Africa. TPRC. [Online]. (5 March 2014).

Nkondo, M., Brown, A., Dick, A., Hart, G., Molawa, S., Nassimbeni, M., Seleti, Y. and Teffo, L.J. 2014. The Library and Information Services (LIS) Transformation Charter. Pretoria: Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) and the National Council for Library and Information Services (NCLIS). [Online]. (24 October 2015).

Malawi. 2003. Malawi Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Policy. [Online]. (15 March 2013).

Malawi. 2012. Integrated household survey 2010-2011: household socio-economic characteristics report. [Online]. (22 September 2013).

Mark, G. and Poltrock, S. 2001. Diffusion of a collaborative technology across distance. Proceedings of the 2001 International ACM SIGGROUP Conference on Supporting Group Work. 30 September-3 October 2001. Boulder, CO.: ACM Press. 232–241. [Online]. (5 June 2013).

Mathiesen, K. 2008. Access to information as a human right. [Online]. (14 October 2014).

Mtega, W. and Malekani, A. 2009. Analyzing the usage patterns and challenges of telecentres among rural communities: experience from four selected telecenters in Tanzania. International Journal of Education and Development Using ICT, 5(2): 68-87.

Malawi VP opens K80M multipurpose telecentre in Karonga. 2012. Nyasa Times. 13 September. [Online]. (15 September 2013).

Nyirenda, P.B. 2014. Report #2 on Malawi ICT sector key indicators on infrastructure and access. Regional communications infrastructure programme Malawi project. Monitoring and evaluation consultancy [Online]. (1 September, 2015).

Parkinson, S. and Ramirez, R., 2007. Using a sustainable livelihoods approach to assessing the impact of ICTs in development. The Journal of Community Informatics, 2(3). [Online]. (27 May 2016).

Prado, P., Câmara, M.A. and Figueiredo, M.A.D. 2011. Evaluating ICT adoption in rural Brazil: a quantitative analysis of telecenters as agents of social change. The Journal of Community Informatics, 7(1-2): 1-25.

Rogers, E.M. 1995. Diffusion of Innovations. 4th ed. New York: The Free Press.

Roman, R. 2003. Diffusion of Innovations as a theoretical framework for telecenters. Information Technologies & International Development, 1(2): 53-66.

Sharma, S. 2008. What brings people to the telecentres? Telecentre Foundation. 10 December. [Online]. (20 February 2014).

Soriano, C. R. R. 2007. Exploring the ICT and rural poverty reduction link: community telecentres and rural livelihoods in Wu’an, China. The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, 32. [Online]. (20 April 2013).

Tlabela, K., Roodt, J., Paterson, A. and Weir-Smith, G. 2007. Mapping ICT access in South Africa. Cape Town: HSRC Press.

Twinomurinzi, H., Phahlamohlaka, J. and Byrne, E. 2012. The small group subtlety of using ICT for participatory governance: a South African experience. Government Information Quarterly, 29(2): 203-211.

Research Articles