The Remote Community Services Telecentre (RCST) is a shared-use facility (telecentre) that will be implemented in remote communities to provide telelearning, telehealth, small business and rural development, communications and information access services.
The RCST concept has been designed to adapt to the telecommunications environment of a community or region, being capable of functioning in either a traditional network (telephone) or wireless (satellite) environment. An RCST would become a shared resource for a community or region, a common point through which a variety of services should be concentrated for cost effective service delivery. The RCST represents a flexible facility model in which a variety of technologies and services would be integrated to meet the specific needs of community or region, and the environment in which it would operate.
The initial implementation for a community telecentre will be based upon a set of core telelearning and telehealth applications and services with the ability to add additional applications for the community as required or feasible.
This project will encompass the initial design, development and trials of the RCST concept, as well as the TEACH (Telecentres for Education and Community Health) initiative which is intended to focus specifically on the provision of telehealth services and health-related educational services.
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The principle challenges which the project addresses include:
Services: The initial implementation for a community telecentre will be based upon a set of core telelearning and telehealth applications and services with the ability to add additional applications for the community as required or feasible.
Technology: The telecentre model will not be married to a specific technology platform or bandwidth requirement, but will be adaptable to the resources and requirements of the target community. This will mean developing a range of service options suited to different network capacities that could be mixed and matched as required.
Geography: The basic model will be applicable to a single facility implementation or to the implementation of a series of connected centres within a region, with shared access to resources and expertise. The RCST model will also support the concept of a 'distributed' community resources wherein multiple locations in a community (i.e. the school, hospital / clinic, government offices) are networked together, sharing a common high-speed communications link (i.e. satellite).
Human Systems: The design, development and testing of the planning, management and support services required to successfully develop and implement a telecentre.
The Remote Community Services Telecentre (RCST) will provide telelearning, telehealth, communications and information access services to under served and lightly populated areas of Canada. The RCST represents a flexible facilities model in which a variety of technologies and services could be integrated to meet the specific needs of the community and the environment in which it will operate.
Over the course of the project a six-site satellite based RCST infrastructure will be developed including a prototype RCST facility at the Telemedicine Centre at Memorial University of Newfoundland, a corresponding proof of concept facility in Telesat's Multimedia Applications Development Lab (MADLab) in Ottawa, and the implementation and operation of four centres in Newfoundland and Labrador (Goose Bay, Nain, Forteau and Twillingate).
A range of services will be adapted or developed for implementation within the facilities, with the following major service groups:
- Business Information
- Government Information
- Community / Local Information
- Internet Access / Services
While the RCST project is focused on the development of a facilities model and infrastructure for the telecentre, equal emphasis will be placed on the development and validation of the human and support services required to effectively plan, implement and support a centre in the long term.
The RCST project is planned to run for 20 months from August 1998 to March 2000 which would encompass the initial design, development and piloting of the RCST concept, as well as extended operational testing and refinement.
The project is organized in terms of three main units.
Unit 1 - RCST Design and Pilots
Unit 2 - Operational Testing and TEACH Integration
Unit 3 - Evaluation and Business Development
While the RCST Project was completed in April 2000, the Project Team has agreed to continue with activities under the initiative in parallel with the IEMN project. The following are significant developments since the completion of the project:
- The RCST Group is playing a major role in the implementation of the SmartLabrador Project, which will see broadband network services extended to 26 communities in Labrador through a hybrid satellite-terrestrial network. A number of core applications will be implemented under SmartLabrador, including telehealth (including video-based consultations), distance education (secondary and post secondary), government services, and e-commerce. Implementation is ongoing and the full network will be operational by October 2001.
- Based upon its experience in RCST, Telesat has successfully partnered with a number of projects under the Smart Communities program that will see new sites in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia.
- A wireless community-networking project has been successfully implemented in the community of Port aux Basques, and plans are underway to use the network to extend services to a number or nearby communities. The model developed within Port aux Basques is now being looked at by a number of other communities in Newfoundland and Labrador, and all SmartLabrador communities' sites will include a community wireless component.
- A number of new telemedicine services are now being delivered through the network, including teleradiology between Goose Bay and St. John's, autism clinics, nuclear medicine and telepsychiatry. Use of the network for medical education has also grown, with a number of CME and nursing courses delivered on a regular basis, as well a virtual grand rounds between facilities.
- Through its involvement in the SmartLabrador project the RCST group is now in the early stages of planning for the trials of newly developed distance education courses for the province's K-12 sector with the provincial governments new distance-learning agency.
- The RCST model has been used to implement a new telehealth pilot project between the communities of Clarenville and Bonavista. This project is unique in that it is the first time that the RCST group has utilized the dedicated provincial College network to deliver telehealth services (this project is a pilot to assess the feasibility of sharing of bandwidth between institutional users within a community).
- The RCST facilities continue to be used as a demonstration and proof of concept facility for national and international demonstrations and projects. Recent events include demonstrations to delegations from Argentina, India and a number of African nations, as well as number of sessions to the recent Summit of the Americas.