Lending a Visible Hand: An analysis of infomediary behavior in Colombian public access venues

Abstract

In this paper we describe a general class of information and communication technology (ICT) access in transitioning and developing countries known as intermediated ICT access. We contend that intermediated access is the most common ICT transfer mechanism in public access computing venues. Intermediated ICT access is often enabled by infomediaries. Infomediaries are individuals who assume formal or informal mediating roles and leverage their direct access to ICTs by brokering information and technology to a set of beneficiaries, who do not have direct ICT access. Infomediaries foster digital inclusion and bridge gaps to ICTs such as illiteracy, limited physical access to a venue, insufficient technology-operation skills, and income constraints.
This paper presents findings from an in-depth study of public access computing in Colombia, South America, conducted by University of Washington researchers and local partners. Our work examines three venue types: libraries, telecenters and cybercaf├ęs. This study explores the role of infomediaries and describes aspects of infomediary behavior within and across the three venue types studied in Colombia. Our analysis is drawn from a combination of user surveys, operator and expert interviews, and community focus groups. Our findings describe how infomediaries in Colombian public access venues have both direct and indirect impacts on human development:

  • By offering easier access to more information and resources, health information, better social connections with friends and family, and increased opportunities for education and learning (Social Impact)
  • By offering easier access to employment, job advancement, and agricultural resources (Economic Impact)
  • By offering easier access to more information and communication resources, thereby creating a stronger sense of empowerment and contributing to the idea of belonging to a global community. (Community Impact).
  • Recommended Citation

    Turner, J.D., Fawcett, P., & Gomez, R. (2011). Lending a Visible Hand: An analysis of infomediary behavior in Colombian public access venues and their impact on social, economic, and community development. IAMCR 2011 - Istanbul, Turkey | 13 - 17 July 2011.