Mali: Selected Snapshots of the 12,000 CLIC Clients (dot-ORG)

In May 2004, twelve Community Learning and Information Centers (CLICs)opened their doors to the communities they were meant to serve in a mix of urban and rural areas across Mali with funding from USAID's Mali Mission. A thirteenth CLIC opened its doors in late 2004. CLICs are community- based telecenters providing information and communication services and locally relevant content to support other USAID efforts in sectors such as education, health and local governance.

After 10 months of operation, most of the CLICs are taking off. If the CLICs struggled through the first 5 months, they are now clearly making progress in terms of the number of clients and revenues. The installation of VSAT connections in all thirteen CLICs in December/January has no doubt contributed to the surge in clients in the past couple of months.

Graph showing progression of number of clients by months While it is too early to suggest that the CLICs are now financially autonomous, many of them are progressing in that direction. Key to their sustainability is their ability to serve the needs of various segments of the local community. Since the beginning of the project, a strong emphasis was placed on the need to structure the CLICs in such a way that they serve the local community and are clearly differentiated from cybercafes both in the range of services they provide and in the range of clients they serve. This article provides snapshots of CLIC clients encountered during recent visits to seven of the thirteen CLICs.

Who are the clients?
Out of the more than 12,000 clients who have walked in the doors of CLICs to avail themselves of their services, thirteen percent (13%) were women. This aggregate number hides a couple of important facts, however:
  1. This includes a significant number of tourists and expatriates and therefore does not provide an accurate picture of the use of the CLICs by Malian women.
  2. While women may not come to the CLICs in large numbers to purchase services, they may benefit in many indirect ways.
Women’s participation in the CLICs and use of CLIC services will be addressed further in the May issue of this newsletter, an issue entirely dedicated to gender. While efforts have been made since the beginning of this project to ensure that women benefit equally, there is no doubt a lot of work that remains to be done to ensure that women benefit directly and indirectly from ALL of the CLICs’ services.

Secondary school students
Moussa Oulalé comes to the Ségou CLIC to study for his high school graduation exams. He is in his senior year at the Lyçée Michel Alain in Ségou and came to consult the list of useful URLs that was put together by AED's local partner, INAGEF. A regular client, Moussa walked in on a Saturday at 6pm and asked for an hour of Internet connection at 500 FCFA (~ $1.00) This hourly fee is very low compared to what other CLICs are charging (mostly 1500 FCFA/hour or $3 per hour) because the competition is charging 1000 FCFA per hour and offers a faster service. The CLIC’s comparative advantage, however, is the quality of service and extensive support provided by the manager, intern and Peace Corps volunteer who supports the CLIC on a part-time basis.

In many CLICs, students have largely benefited from the vouchers that were distributed between October and December 2004. These vouchers allowed many youths to be introduced to the CLICs’ services. Common uses of the vouchers by students included 1) access to the Encarta encyclopedia; 2) basic training in Word and Excel.

Tour guides

Amadou Cissé and Moctar Cissé – who explained that they may share the same last name but they are not brothers – come to the Djenné CLIC almost daily. Both men are tour guides in Djenné and they use the CLIC almost daily to communicate with clients and friends via email. Amadou (in the front), has been a regular client since the CLIC opened in May 2004. He suggested to the managers that they sell prepaid tickets at a discount for regular clients like himself, a pricing innovation that has been implemented and that is very popular.

Tourists and expatriates
The tourist season spans from December to February. Some of the 13 CLICs benefit heavily from their presence and their use of the Internet. This is a double-edge sword, however. 1) The tourist season is short and the CLICs must be careful not to make income projections based on that period; 2) CLICs are meant to serve the community and should not be seen as just another cybercafe. A CLIC that serves primarily tourists and expatriates may be profitable but it will not be a successful CLIC.

CLICs can also benefit more indirectly from the tourism industry. In Djenné, the CLIC provided all the posters, tickets and badges that were made for the Djenné Festival that took place at the end of February. The services were paid for by the local Festival organizers who themselves rely on the tickets sales to tourists as a source of revenues. The key is for the CLICs to position themselves to be able to take advantage of such opportunities when they emerge.

Local civil servants
Four of the 13 CLICs are hosted by Mayors offices. In such cases, the CLIC provides easy access to a range of information and communication services for the local administration. Word processing and photocopying services are particularly popular. The host organization pays for the services just as a regular client would but the time saving advantages are significant. Even where the CLIC is not hosted by the Mayor’s office, the local civil servants use the services of the CLIC. In Djenné, the CLIC is hosted by the only local radio station, Radio Jamana-Djenné. The local “prefet” (head of the local government) uses the CLIC for all its word processing and photocopying needs.

The professional woman

Mrs. Kinta Badji Maharafa at the Djenné CLIC. Mrs. Maharafa works as a consultant for a French organization called Association Ille-Et-Villaine/Mopti. She has a computer at home but comes to the CLIC for the Internet connection. "There are not enough women coming the CLIC," Mrs. Maharafa says. "We can't move forward without the women.” Mrs. Maharafa is not a typical client since most are men, but rather a typical woman client, well educated and already quite computer literate.

The local artist
Djimé Diakite is not a typical user but demonstrates the CLIC’s potential to benefit a broad range of individuals within Malian communities. Mr. Diakite is an agro-engineer by training and artist/painter by vocation. He comes to the CLIC in Bougouni to work on his web site and to try to share his artwork across the world through the Internet… and he loves to talk about his art.

This poster depicting a traditional mask was scanned at the CLIC and with the help of a technology savvy CLIC intern, posted on Djimé Diakite’s web site.

Challenges ahead
While it is too early to claim complete success, most of the CLICs have made significant strides in attracting a regular clientele to use their services.In the near future, the CLICs will need to consolidate their gains in terms of clientele, to watch more closely which services are profitable and which are not, to continue outreach efforts towards women and other disadvantaged groups, to make more effective use of the locally relevant content they have accumulated, and to continuously improve their monitoring systems.

(Look for a more complete report based on a recent monitoring and evaluation trip in the library)

AED was awarded the Mali CLIC Project for a period of two years between May 2003 - May 2005 (Award No. 688-G-00-03-00038-00 under the dot-ORG Leader Award No.GDG-A-00-01-00014-00).

For More Information, Contact:
Michael Tetelman
Acting Director, dot-ORG
Academy for Educational Development
Tel: 202 884 8856

CLIC Project Coordinator, Academy for Educational Development

Related Resource Partners
Related DOT-COM Activity
Mali CLICs- Establishing Community Learning & Information Centers in Underserved Malian Communities
Related DOT-COMments Newsletter Articles
Related Links
Click on USAID's logo to visit USAID
Click on Internews Network logo, to visit Internews
Click on Academy for Educational Development (AED) logo to visit AED
Click on Educational Development Center (EDC) logo to visit EDC
Core funding for the DOT-COM Alliance is provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture & Trade, Office of Infrastructure and Engineering (EGAT/OI&E), Office of Education (EGAT/ED), and Office of Women in Development (EGAT/WID), under the terms of Award numbers: GDG-A-00-01-00009-00, dot-GOV; GDG-A-00-01-00014-00, dot-ORG; GDG-A-00-01-00011-00, dot-EDU.
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