A Maarifa centre is a room or a ‘fabricated shipping container’ where communities access information resources. The centre is equipped with computers and internet access. It is an information hub where local knowledge is documented by communities with the support of field officers and shared widely.

A Maarifa centre also has a rich information resource base that includes publications, newsletters, research reports and electronically stored information that includes CD ROMs, audiovisual material and compendiums. The ICT equipment enhances information access via the Internet, content creation and skills development among rural communities. Maarifa centres are operated by field officers employed by ALIN. An advisory committee drawn from a focal group oversees the Maarifa center operations in collaboration with the field officer.

A Maarifa centre offers the following services;

  1. Easy access to information and knowledge resources (see an article in the New York Times).
  2. Capacity to develop local knowledge databases /reservoirs.
  3. Improved community livelihoods through access to new knowledge and innovations.
  4. Engagement of youth in productive activities and access to IT skills.
  5. Increased institutional capacities – the field officers have trained staff from organisations affiliated or in the vicinity of the centres helping to build their IT and information management capacities.
  6. Global presence. Nguruman Maarifa centre was named as one among the 10 most remote parts of the world.
  7. Capacity to develop online marketing portals enabling communities to trade globally.

Sustainability of Maarifa Centres

The sustainability of the Maarifa centres is vital. Fund raising for support of Maarifa centre operations is therefore important.Focal group members around Maarifa centres have steering committees that have initiated sustainable mechanism of income generation activities for the centres sustainability with the support from ALIN.Key among Income generating activities include:

Money Transfer & Transaction Services
The Maarifa centres provide M‐PESA agency services to community members on a commission basis. M-PESA is an innovative mobile transfer solution by Safaricom Limited, a leading GSM service provider that enables customers to transfer money. It is a low cost service that enables users to send and receive money through their mobile phones. Revenue earned from the services is used to support access to communities.

ALIN promotes FREE ACCESS to computer skills, internet and knowledge in all Maarifa centres in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.