Understanding & rethinking shared access: How people collaborate & share knowledge & technologies in Ghanaian cybercafés

Abstract

In many low-income countries, where computer ownership and home and business internet access is rare, public access venues, especially in the form of business-operated cybercafés, are how most people access computers and the internet. This form of public access is often viewed as having been born of economic necessity and considered to be a second-best alternative when compared to private, individualized access. This in-depth study of the Global Impact Study interrogates this assumption, finding that public access can support forms of collaboration and knowledge sharing that enhance learning and productivity and offer rich opportunities for interaction and co-work. In this way, public shared access is not necessarily second-best to private, individualized connection, but may, in some contexts, be a preferred access method. Results reveal that public access enables forms of sharing and collaboration among patrons that range from the most simplistic to the more formalized to the fleeting and voyeuristic. Contrary to the belief that resource constraints drive public shared access, the participants surveyed who do share computers highlighted the learning benefits of working together much more frequently than the economic grounds for sharing.

Recommended Citation

Best, M., Garg, S., & Kollanyi, B. (2013). Understanding & rethinking shared access: How people collaborate & share knowledge & technologies in Ghanaian cybercafés. Global Impact Study Research Report Series. Seattle: Technology & Social Change Group, University of Washington Information School.