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Global Impact Study looks at importance of public internet access in Ghana

July 14, 2013  »  StatisticsNo Comment

Millions of people around the world still lack private access to this increasingly necessary resource to function and prosper in today’s world. How do those people connect to digital society?

For many, digital inclusion is found at a library, a telecenter, or a cybercafé – their local public access ICT venue. However, their ability to contribute to development agendas has come into question in recent times, spurred by the spread of mobile phones and other new technologies and applications. The five-year Global Impact Study was designed to address this debate by generating evidence about the scale, character, and impacts of public access ICTs. From it, we can get generalize who the typical public access venue user in Ghana is – if there is such a person.

Recently, TASCHA announced the release of the study’s final report, Connecting people for development: Why public access ICTs matter.

The report is the most comprehensive study of its kind to date, based on thousands of surveys, interviews, and other data collected across eight low and middle income countries (including Botswana, Ghana and South Africa). Situating public access in the context of national development, Connecting people for development summarizes the study’s key findings, discusses some disputed issues, and offers recommendations for policymakers, public access practitioners, and researchers.

In each country, public access remains relevant to different populations for different reasons – for some it is the only source for computer and internet access, therefore critical at a most foundational level; for others the equipment at public access venues are more suited than home or work access for certain tasks; and for yet others, the social space at public access venues is more important than the technological resources.

Highlights of the report as they relate to Ghanaian public Internet users are noted below:

  • 511 public access venues, or 2.1 per 100,000 individuals
  • 5,723 estimated public access PCs, or 43 people per PC
  • Over 85% of public access venues are in urban areas
  • 83% are privately owned and for-profit
  • Wheelchair access is only found in 21% of cyber cafes
  • The average cyber cafe records 56 daily visits, with a library seeing 22 and a telecentre 25
  • 14% of unique weekly users are female
  • 67% of venue users are under the age of 25
  • 56% have a post-secondary or greater education level (more than 50% of venue users are still students)
  • Income levels are hard to capture, but only 28% of users have household incomes with less than 300 cedis
  • 98% own a mobile phone (56% use mobile internet at least weekly)
  • 47% have no other option for internet access (15% find better equipment at the venue than at home/work, 14% are there to be with friends)
  • 84% live within 2km of the venue
  • 88% visit at least weekly
  • 49% have used a computer for more than 5 years (only 8% are new to a computer in the past year)
  • Most consider internet skills as ‘good’ or ‘very good’
  • Nearly 80% first used internet at a public venue
  • 42% rarely or never seek help from venue staff, but when they do it is usually about internet connectivity issues

Also, an in-depth case study conducted among teenagers who visit public access venues in Cape Town, South Africa finds that mobile phones and public access computers are not substitutes for one another. Mobile internet access is beneficial, for sure, but it does not appear to make public access obsolete.

In addition to the final research report, TASCHA also invites you to explore additional resources generated by the Global Impact Study’s open research approach. All of the survey materials and data are available for public use, and full research reports and summaries of each the in-depth studies, focused on specific questions surrounding public access, are being released over the next couple of months. Be sure to follow the dialogue on Twitter: @taschagroup | @ictimpact.

The study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was managed by the Canadian International Development Research Centre and implemented by the Technology and Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the Information School, University of Washington, Seattle USA.

Source: Sey, A., Coward, C., Bar, F., Sciadas, G., Rothschild, C., & Koepke, L. (2013). Connecting people for development: Why public access ICTs matter. Seattle: Technology & Social Change Group, University of Washington Information School.