This study examines operational sustainability of a major telecentre initiative - the Union Digital Centre (UDC) in Bangladesh - from the perspective of public-private-people's partnership (PPPP). Given the rising incidence of dropout of private entrepreneurs causing premature closure of telecentres, it is important to understand and identify key variables that affect sustainability of the scheme. In appreciation of the difficulty associated with operationalisation of the term 'sustainability’ in this study we adopt ‘operational sustainability’ as an alternative to investigate the dynamics of sustenance. We have reviewed key literature about various dimensions of sustainability and their interrelationships in order to develop hypotheses about sustainability of the UDC and factors associated with it. Drawing on data collected from a survey of 538 private entrepreneurs and 41 interviews with government officials we show the extent to which various elements of the UDC eco-system contribute to its sustainability. The application of a structural equation model confirms that both financial and social outcomes of the UDC depend largely on inputs and contributions of various stakeholders. The paper concludes that effective engagement of private entrepreneurs is critical, as is governmental patronage, for ensuring operational sustainability of partnership-based telecentres like the UDC.
- Digital divide