Network of Maisons de savoirs de la Francophonie

Public spaces offering educational and cultural services to communities, to reduce the digital divide


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Organisation internationale de la Francophonie Institut de la Francophonie numérique Responsable de projet : M. Eric-Normand Thiebault Téléphone : (33) 1 44 37 33 04 Courriel :
FR France


About the project Edit

The Maisons des Savoirs (MDS) de la Francophonie are multi-service community centres that provide access to knowledge using all available forms of media. They provide a complimentary support structure for other community training institutions, initial training, self-training, the development of individual and collective projects.


In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

The technical platform is programmed using Linux. The operating systems use Ubuntu and provide a cost-free digital environment. Free, open educational resources (OER) are one of the main priorities of the Maison des Savoirs. The MDS de la Francophonie are non-profit, independent administrative structures, which allow its users to be directly involved in defining policy guidelines in collaboration with municipal and other government authorities. Each MDS provides various types of activities:
• Sociocultural activities: book lending, conferences, exhibits, literary contests, film screenings;
• French training: training teachers in the “Apprendre et enseigner avec TV5MONDE,” organizing French classes;
• ICT training: introduction to ICT and development of ICT skills for different groups of individuals (students, municipal workers, etc.), organizing focus groups to identify existing needs in the education system.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

The goal of “Francophonie de Proximité” generally contrasts with an intergovernmental view of la Francophonie. This initiative aims to create a direct link with citizens and more specifically, relies on the cooperation of local communities and the AIMF, a decentralized cooperation network. This pilot project shares common goals with la Francophonie as a whole that is, to incorporate the project within a regional approach and to create a public space open to a diverse public. The second objective is in line with those of the 2006 Déclaration de Bucarest: “the project aims to reduce the digital divide and favour development by emphasizing easy and low-cost access to skills and knowledge,” to promote access to education and training. In 2011, 61 000, or 72%, of those who benefited from this project were women.

Each MDS de la Francophonie utilizes and promotes communication technologies, while fully respecting international laws regarding infringement copies and pirating of this type of material. Each MDS de la Francophonie supports their users in their learning through a team of animators. Each offers flexible schedules adapted to ensure access by the entire community. The purpose of an MDS de la Francophonie is to encourage all possible types of collaboration between the different groups and organizations in a community. The idea is to create an environment for local information and knowledge sharing. An MDS de la Francophonie provides a friendly and welcoming space for sociocultural and socio-educational activities where all local resource contributions can be put to good use.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

The various Maisons des Savoirs were launched over a period of 2 years, with 4 months between the launching of each of the first 3.

• The Hué MDS opened on 17/09/09;
• The Chisinau MDS opened on 29/01/2010;
• The Ouagadougou MDS opened on 21/05/2010;
• The Kinshasa MDS opened on 05/07/2011.

Over the course of the experimental project phase, the directors of the two organization requested an evaluation to determine whether to continue the MDS projects and to determine the conditions necessary to extend the project to other communities and how to improve these initial results. The average cost of a Maison des Savoirs is 100 000 euros.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

In 2050, there will be 700 million Francophones in the world. According to Richard Marcoux, a social demographics researcher at Université Laval: “The demographic future of la Francophonie will play out in Africa. The African population is experiencing strong demographic growth—in contrast to Western countries—and is becoming increasingly educated in French, the primary language of instruction.”

The current balance between continents will be turned on its head: today, more than half of the Francophone population lives in Europe; this percentage will drop to 12% in the next 40 years. Since 2006, the International Organisation de la Francophonie and the International Association of Francophone Mayors have been working together to develop the pilot project for the network of the Maisons des Savoirs in the goal of reducing the digital divide in Francophone nations. The operational phase of the project began in late 2008 when an agreement was signed by the 4 chosen communities: Hué, Ouagadougou, Chisinau, and Kinshasa. The International Organisation de la Francophonie (OIF) and the Association internationale des Maires de la Francophonie (AIMF) collaborated to develop the Maisons des Savoirs pilot project. The Agence universitaire de la Francophone and TV5MONDE are associate partners of the pilot project.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

Example of average funding for a 120 000-euro budget: The investments necessary to start up a Maison des Savoirs, for example, could come from the following sources: an average of 50 000 euros of funding to finance wiring work (low and high voltage) as well as related installations such as, wiring gutters, suspended ceilings, electrical outlets, connectors, etc.; anti-intrusion security such as, locks, alarms, window security bars, etc.; air-conditioning; and interior and exterior signage. For example, the contributions of the OIF and AIMF could cover up to 50% of the total renovation costs associated with opening a new MDS. 40 000 euros for computer equipment such as, computers, peripheral equipment, teleconferencing stations, software, etc. and configuration of the technical platform as well as, the network of computers and peripherals; 16 000 euros for furniture such as, tables, chairs, cabinets, desks, shelves, etc. and other accessories and minor equipment; 14 000 euros to acquire a document collection of about 2 000 to 3 000 books, atlases, dictionaries, francophone literary works, French language learning tools, films from the Francophone Fonds, educational CD-ROMs, etc.; the annual operational and activities budget (workshops, seminars, expositions, conferences, adapted training, etc.) is between 250 000 and 300 000 euros. In 2011, over 620 000 people benefited from the services and training offered by teams of facilitators at the Maisons des Savoirs. Women represented, by far, the largest proportion of MDS users of both training workshops and public space.


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