ICT centers and the access gap to formal higher education for the poor in Brazil

Abstract

The recentinterest in technology and development in Brazil features a complex environment of actors including the state, industry, international aid and NGOs. Developmental projects working in this area have focused on providing subsidized technology and employment agency services, usually through community centers. Presenting here results from primary research conducted in three urban and peri-urban locations of São Paulo and Belo Horizonte, we find structural factors around higher education have been elemental in influencing peoples' participation in technology centers. We find a recurrent theme that the competitive nature of free state-run higher education has led to limited access to quality higher education for the urban poor. This in turn has led to technology training centers being seen as partially filling a gap in the education of urban poor. Thus the perception is of these preparing youth not just for jobs that actually require the specific skills taught, but even more generally providing a ‘foot-in-the-door' for professional opportunities, especially in urban slums where the lack of social networks and stigma of poverty came up as a significant challenge for young job seekers. Using extensive in-depth interviews from recipients and providers of services, we discuss the imagination of technology centers from two frames. First, we examine the claim of offering a competitive parallel training system for those with limited access to institutional higher education, second, we examine these centers as part of the aspirational environment around technology access both at the client level, and within Brazil's emergent consciousness of leadership in the developing world.

Recommended Citation

Freistadt, J., Pal, J., & Alves da Silva, R. (2009). ICT centers and the access gap to formal higher education for the poor in Brazil. Paper presented at the Community Informatics Conference 2009: Empowering communities: learning from community informatics practice. Prato, Italy, October 2009.