News / Science & Technology

Study: Support for Public Web Access in Poor Countries Fading

Computer users are pictured at an internet cafe in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 3, 2011.
Computer users are pictured at an internet cafe in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 3, 2011.
VOA News
Decreasing interest of local governments and businesses in developing countries to provide public access to computers and Internet may close a critical source of information for underprivileged groups, a study has found.
 
A group of researchers at the University of Washington Information School in Seattle says public access to computers and Internet is still a crucial resource for connecting people to information and skills.
 
As new technologies, such as smartphones and home computers become available, organizations are losing interest in providing access to public computers connected to the Internet. The trend is especially pronounced among development agencies.
 
The study calls on governments and donor organizations to increase investment in public access to Internet and incorporate it into national initiatives. Researchers also say computer games are beneficial because they build technology skills.
 
The five-year study surveyed 5,000 users of public computers and 2,000 non-users, as well as 1,250 operators of public access venues. Researchers say public access to the Internet was the only source of information for one-third of those surveyed and more than half said their use of computers will decrease if public access is shut.
 
The study conducted in eight developing countries concluded underemployed persons, women, rural residents and other often marginalized groups draw a lot of benefits from having access to computers in places such as Internet cafes, tele-centers and public libraries.  According to researchers, the biggest benefits are seen in education, search for jobs and finding answers to health issues.

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