Does Public Access Computing Really Contribute to Community Development? Lessons from Libraries, Telecenters and Cybercafés in Colombia

Ricardo Gomez, Luis Fernando Baron-Porras

Abstract


The use of information and communication technologies (ICT) can contribute to local community development and help connect local communities to global issues. Public access computing (PAC) venues such as telecenters, public libraries and cybercafés make ICT more broadly available and extend the benefits of ICT to underserved populations. This paper discusses findings from a study of the contribution of PAC to community development in Colombia, with particular attention to the town of Carmen de Bolívar. This town has a strong tradition of community organization for social development, and a long history of violence that has shaped its social fabric. While the introduction of PAC may not have contributed significantly to community development, use of ICT gives the local population a sense of belonging to a larger, global community, which in turn may help local activities in support of community development. We conclude that personal friendships and entertainment are perceived as stronger benefits of PAC, not community development or social transformation. Future research can explore if personal friendships and entertainment can be indirect contributors to community development.

Keywords


libraries; telecenters; cybercafes; ict; impact; Colombia; Public Access Computing

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The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries. ISSN: 1681-4835 www.ejisdc.org