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Research Activities

Our hypothesis is that the impact of public access technologies occurs along a continuum, from availability, to accessibility and affordability, to usage, outcomes, and ultimately impacts. Based on this, the Global Impact Study’s research activities use three main methods:

  1. National-level inventories to engage in broad investigation
  2. Surveys to narrow in on issues at an intermediate level
  3. In-depth studies to zone in on targeted topics to get a better sense of how change happens

These are outlined below, with links to recent updates when available.

National-level inventories of public access facilities

Our research teams conducted  inventories of currently operating facilities in six countries — Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Ghana, Lithuania, and the Philippines — from which we can infer the reach and distribution of public access venues. Quantifying venues provides a baseline against which we can assess the magnitude of the larger public access phenomenon and begin to formulate statements about impact. Browse inventory updates »

Venue, user, & non-user surveys

Surveys were administered to representative samples of public access venues and populations (both venue users and non-users). We conducted surveys in Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Ghana, and the Philippines. Surveys generate data that answers questions beyond what inventories can provide and serve as integral links to our in-depth studies. They also tell us more about the accessibility, use, and perceived benefits of public access venues. Browse survey updates »

In-depth studies

While inventories and surveys allow us to answer a number of basic questions, a more precise, actionable understanding of impact requires in-depth studies that investigate targeted topics. In all, seventeen topics were identified during the first phase of the project. While all of these topics are very relevant and worth exploring, due to time and resource constraints, the Global Impact Study explored eight of the topics identified. The Global Impact Study encourages other researchers to examine the remaining topics. Browse in-depth study updates »

Topics explored by the Global Impact Study as in-depth studies:

Click on the study title for a detailed description of each study, and “browse updates” to see the latest information from the research team.

  1. Infomediaries: Brokers of Public Access Sites — What are the roles of infomediaries, and how do infomediaries influence what users learn, do differently, and value from services? What is the effect of staff skills and training on the impact of public access venues?
  2. Collaborative Knowledge Sharing at Public Access Sites — Do shared use practices emerge when users access ICTs simultaneously with others in public access venues? What are the consequences for users?
  3. The Impact of Non-instrumental Use of ICTs on Users’ ICT Skills — Do non-instrumental uses of ICT (e.g., games, chat, and entertainment activities) have impacts on employability and income?
  4. Mobile Phones and Public Access ICTs — How do mobile users interact with public access sites? What is the use of public access ICTs among mobile phone users? To what extent are there uses of computers in public access venues that have something to do with mobile phones?
  5. Interpersonal Communication — Public access venues provide an arena for people to connect with their friends and family. How effective are public access venues in providing services for people to communicate with their friends and family, particularly with those overseas? What is the comparative impact of communication and information services use on dispersed families?
  6. Cost-Benefit — What is the relationship between the costs and benefits of providing and using public access to ICT?
  7. Sustainable Livelihoods — Do public access ICTs and services located in libraries have an impact of reducing vulnerability of its users by enhancing education, education, and income strategies? If so, how do these public access ICTs and services impact these factors of its users?

In addition, you can browse all in-depth study updates »

Other topics identified but not explored by the Global Impact Study:
  1. Non-users — What are the barriers to access, especially for marginalized populations? How are public access points viewed by non-users? What are the key sources of information for non-users? Are public access ICT users a source of information for non-users?
  2. Willingness to Pay — How do users make choices when there are fees? How much are individuals willing to pay for different public access ICT products and services? What is the relationship between users’ perceived value of communication and information services and the actual benefits derived from them?
  3. Institutional & Stakeholder Influence — At the national level, what institutional changes are shaping, or being shaped by, the development of public access to ICT? Are certain types of centers associated with certain types of state structures? At a local level, what change agents are facilitating the development of public access to ICT? What is the role of stakeholders in public access venues with high impact? What effect does community involvement in the design and operation of a public access venue have on the social and economic impacts of the venue?
  4. Rules — How do restrictions on the use of computers, the Internet, and venue space affect usage in public access venues?
  5. Role of Networks in the Venue Ecosystem —At the local level, what is the relationship between public access venues and government, NGOs, and other public access venues? Are there programmatic ties? Do public access venues within larger networks have more or less impact on their users and communities? Is access better in pre-existing networks or in new establishments?
  6. Local Content — What is the importance of local content in public access sites for making an impact on communities? What is the geographical scale at which information must be gathered and disseminated to ensure that public access to ICTs is beneficial?
  7. Venue Architecture & Design — How does the nature of physical space at public access venues, including the availability of space for ancillary activities (e.g., computer placement, meeting rooms, computer repair work, child care) affect usage?
  8. IT Skills, Training & Employment — What is the value of basic IT training and services provided at public access venues? Do IT skills improve job prospects or better lives? Does public access to ICT advance users’ computer skills or their ability to seek and use information? What are the differences in ICT skills developed by people using different types of public access ICT venues?
  9. Life Cycle of Public Access Venues — What are the lifecycle models of public access ICTs? Are public access venues best understood as transitionalentities? Are some failures actually transitions? What is the impact of failure on the community? When do the impacts of public access use become visible at individual and community level? What would be the impact of multiple public access venues in a community (e.g., competition)? Do public access venues started under private entrepreneurial, or government programs function differently?
  10. Community Information Ecology — What are the details of the information ecology of the larger community within which public access sites are located? What forces in the community promote the use of public access ICTs? Does public access venue influence information ecology of a community and vice versa?
  11. Policy & Regulation — What are the mechanisms that enable research and policy making to work together in the field of public access?