Millions of people in low-income countries still depend on public computers for Internet access, but interest in providing such public access has waned in recent years, especially among development agencies, as new technologies become available, researchers at Washington State University reported Thursday.
Community access to computers and Internet technology is still a crucial resource for connecting people to the information and skills they need in an increasingly digital world, the study authors said.
"Our study finds that many people in low- and middle-income countries, including the underemployed, women, rural residents and other who are often marginalized, derive great benefits in such areas as education, employment and health when they use computers and the Internet at public access venues," lead study investigator Araba Sey said.
In the study, 5,000 computer users at libraries, telecenters and cybercafes and 2,000 nonusers at home were surveyed to learn about patterns of public access use.
The study was conducted in eight low- and middle-income countries on three continents: Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Ghana, Lithuania, Philippines and South Africa.
Public venues were the only source of Internet access for one-third of users surveyed, the researchers said, and provided the first-ever computer contact for more than half of those users.