The Negligible Role of Fees as a Barrier to Public Access Computing in Developing Countries

by Melody Clark, University of Washington, and Ricardo Gomez, University of Washington

ABSTRACT: Public access to computers and the Internet can play an important role in social and economic development if it effectively helps to meet the needs of underserved populations. Public access venues such as libraries, telecentres and cybercafés are sometimes free, and sometime charge user fees. User fees can be an important barrier to use of public access venues, especially among underserved communities in developing countries. This paper analyzes the role of user fees and other critical barriers in the use of computers in public access venues in 25 developing countries around the world. Results of this study suggest that digital literacy of staff and local relevance of content may be more important than fees in determining user preference for public access venues. These findings are important to public libraries, which tend to offer free services, but where perceptions of digital literacy of staff and locally relevant content tend to be lowest, compared to telecentres and cybercafés, according to the results of this study. More attention to digital literacy of staff and availability of locally relevant content may be more important than free services to meet the information needs of underserved populations.

Clark M., Gomez R. (2011) The negligible role of fees as a barrier to public access computing in developing countries. The Electronic journal of information systems in developing countries (EJISDC) 46:1-14. http://www.ejisdc.org/ojs2/index.php/ejisdc/article/download/768/351

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