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Telecentres and the Web (2) - Thoughts after the Spark conference

This second post (regarding Telecentres and web literacies), has been in my drafs for a while but, in the end, I thought that it would be much more complete if I’d finish it after the Spark Conference. Although I got to know telecentres and other civil society services organizations pretty well, I still felt I had to learn a lot from Spark Conference.

The Spark Telecentre conference, which took place last week in Granada, was indeed full of new insights, information and many new faces (including a number of fellow Romanians).
I had the chance to spend some time with people from telecentres interested in participating at Maker Party. I hosted a quick informal session demoing Webmaker tool for a couple of facilitators from Guadalinfo Telecentre Network and, overally, I got an update about what’s up with telecentres in different parts of the world, projects they are building, technologies they use, problems they face when engaging with users.

Innovation. Connectedeness. Apps. Sustainability

Those were topics and words I heard often during Spark – the need to create new services, go beyond access, enter in the mobile world.

One of the plenaries and conversation topic at Spark was Innovation, or how Telecentres can become more like Makerspaces in terms of facilities, how to build and use mobile apps, how to choose technologies that could allow them connect with their users. All in all, there is a deep interest in the whole mobile and app market.

The Innovation part was very interesting, with presentations from MIT’s Henry Holtzman, Mark Surman’s video – inviting Telecentres to join Maker Party and other conversations involving a wide range of topics: from Games and Telecentres, to Mobile or 3D printers.

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This was pretty insightful for me.
As an advocate of the emergent web apps ecosystem and a taste for open WebAPIs and Web based, interactive tools, I thought that well, focusing on building WebApps could be a long, interesting ride for telecentres.

Not only it’s easier to start with, but there is also a yet unimagined possibilities to start building social services and web apps that could help citizens be more informed. This could lie down a new practice for building “apps and services for civil society” – and the telecentre community may have a lot to get bring to this practice.

This may be an opportunity to ignite a community of practice around WebApps, from which everyone would benefit: developers and technologists could build new social APIs, web services and interfaces; telecentres could become local labs, providing learning content and services; users go to telecentre to find resources, knowledge, work on projects.

But I’m going write more about this in the next couple of weeks.

The question is: “Ok, this sounds interesting but what can I DO now?”. The answer is simple: join the MakerParty. The idea of this Summer Campaign championed by Mozilla and other organizations is to provide tools, resources and community support so thousands of community organizations can organize events, experiment new tools, invite people at the centre and have fun.

During the MakerParty summer campaign everyone is invited, even if you never organised an event before or build a webpage. This is what actually makes this event exciting: you can make errors and learn from them, you can ask for help or share your experiences with others. Here, on the Telecentre.org community is a blog-post with all information about MakerParty.

And to end up this, Martina, a friend and the technical lead at the Catalan Telecentre Network tweeted during Spark: Innovation is not the goal, keep things simple, it’s about solving problem! Observe and listen to your surroundings Have fun+ethics.

Well, I think Martina takes the point. What she and her team atTEB (Youth from Raval Telecentre) are doing with Open Badges is indeed inspiring and shows once more, the powerfull of small, simple, informal events.