CU-Supported Telecenters Connect Rural Ecuador to the World
Coportunet telecenter in Guayllabamba, Ecuador.
Madison, WI—On February 6, the
of Guayllabamba in the rural mountains of
Ecuador celebrated the opening of Coportunet,
the first of 10 telecenters slated to open this
year in Ecuador. The telecenters will use the
newly-formed credit union telecommunications
network to connect isolated communities to the
rest of the country and indeed to the world.
RedCoop, the shared branching network World
Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) established
among 11 credit unions in Ecuador with funds
from the United States Agency for International
Development (USAID) in Quito, serves as a
platform for the telecenters' communications
network. USAID's Last Mile Intiative, which
seeks to improve access to telecommunications in
rural communities, recognized RedCoop's
potential to increase connectivity not only
among credit unions but for local businesses and
individuals as well. Last Mile Initiative is
funding the telecenters together with local
The WOCCU-Ecuador team with US Ambassador Linda Jewell at the entrance of Coportunet. (l-r) Santiago Saavedra, institutional developer; Oswaldo Oliva, project director; Linda Jewell; Oscar Guzman, institutional developer; Jaime Maestre, technical developer; and Juan Carlos Avila, administrative assistant.
At Coportunet, the Guayllabamba community can
receive computer training and use personal
computers with Internet access, printers, low-
cost public telephones, a fax machine, a
scanner, a photocopy machine, digital photo
download equipment and wireless communications.
All the equipment is accessible to persons with
disabilities. Computer equipment is also for
sale, and local households can subscribe to
Internet service through the telecenter.
Cooprogreso Credit Union, which owns the
telecenter, even provides loans for members to
purchase personal computers and get connected.
After her musical welcome from a local girls'
elementary school band at the grand opening
Tuesday, United States Ambassador to Ecuador
Linda Jewell expressed her hope for the
telecenter in the Guayllabamba community.
"Here live brilliant people that seek to
the economy, who want more work and better
salaries so they can construct a better future
for their children. This center is a key part of
that plan and a fundamental piece of this future
goal we share," commented Jewell. "This new,
modern and efficient Internet center seeks to
bridge the digital information divide."
Given the credit unions' position to promote
telecenters within their communities, the
possibilities for growth are endless. The access
created by the telecenters will lead to greater
community development. Micro and small business
owners will be able to create webpages and get
information on new products and market pricing;
health professionals will have access to
information on the latest practices and be able
to video conference with experts from around the
world. The telecenters operate on a fee-for-
service basis but offer free public access
during designated hours to encourage use among
low income clients and to encourage community
The slogan under the Coportunet logo
outside the new telecenter reads: "Tu Ventana
al Futuro [Your Window to the Future]." The
Guayllabamba community had a view through this
window at the grand opening when World Council
staff in Madison, Wisconsin, streamed into the
grand opening celebration via live web cast.
"Growth with development, that's what we
strive to promote, seeking to provide our
community with access to information," said Iván
Tobar, Cooprogreso CEO. "An informed town, an
educated community, spawns free people. And this
freedom upholds democracy."
With support from USAID, World Council and
credit unions are providing initial technical
and financial support to the telecenters. The
credit unions involved in building telecenters
receive dividends from their operations and
commit to fully financing at least one
additional telecenter without further financial
WOCCU-Ecuador technical developer Jaime
is spearheading the telecenter project. Led by
project director Oswaldo Oliva, who started the
current WOCCU program in 2002, World Council
will continue its work with the credit unions on
other fronts while developing the remaining
telecenters and helping them devise business
plans for future telecenters.
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 51,000 credit unions in 100 countries serve 196 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.