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Cybercafes

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Based on a survey of public access ICT users in five countries, this working paper outlines some basic characteristics of users – their demographics, history of using ICTs and reasons for using public access ICTs. This preliminary analysis indicates that while a large proportion of public access ICT users are young (40% under 20 years old), male (65%), students (44%), and have at least secondary education (82%), there is a fair amount of diversity in user characteristics.

We examine how the internet brings people together not virtually over digital networks but physically while co-located in public spaces. In particular we are interested in how people in cybercafés share and collaborate with others who are physically present in the facility at the same time. We hypothesize that both explicit and implicit collaboration occurs among co-present internet users – at times intentional and purposeful while in other cases accidental, fleeting or voyeuristic. Public shared internet facilities are particularly important in low-come settings such as found in Africa.

This paper aims to review what type of research has been done on public access to ICTs, including issues investigated, methods used, main findings, and gaps in the literature. This document summarizes our preliminary findings. This review is based on approximately 80 journal articles and reports on public access to ICTs. It focuses mainly on electronically accessible research articles and on research published after 1999. The documents were derived from database searches as well as directly from members of the Global Impact Study community.

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are widely acknowledged as important resources for socio‐economic development. Due to resource constraints, shared access forms the dominant mode of access to these technologies in most developing countries. Governments, non‐governmental institutions and business entrepreneurs have invested significant amounts of human and financial resources in public libraries, telecenters, internet cafés, and other forms of public access, without clear evidence on what the ultimate outcomes will be and the actual costs.

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