Is Our Approach to ICTD via Libraries Wrong?

In 2007, a group of researchers — with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Canada’s International Development Research Centre — launched an ambitious and innovative investigation into the impact of public access to information and communication technologies. “Public access” in non-geek speak means places that everyday folks can go to use computers and the internet, like libraries, telecenters, and cybercafes.

Eight countries, six years, and millions of dollars later they’re now ready to share their results (download full report). Some of their findings directly challenge current assumptions about what works — enshrined in government policies, donor strategies, and the most basic rules that govern the use of these venues. Looking at the evidence, for example, there’s a good case to be made for allowing gaming, noise, and phones in libraries, for promoting interior designs that encourage two or more people to share one computer station, and for more investment in empathetic infomediaries. And it turns out that mobile phones will never replace public access venues — but they do complement each other in important ways.

The Global Impact Study team recently gathered at USC’s Annenberg School on Monday, October 7, for a review of what they learned and a discussion on how their findings should shape ICTD policies and programming in the years to come.

This session is one of two deep dives into the results of the Global Impact Study. The second one will be held at the ICTD2013 conference in Cape Town, South Africa in December 2013. For more information, contact Chris Coward at

This post was originally published by TASCHA