First Global Impact Study workshop held in Seattle

The University of Washington’s Technology & Social Change Group hosted the first global workshop for the Global Impact Study from April 30 to May 2, 2008. This workshop brought together representatives from our three pilot countries (Bangladesh, Chile, Lithuania), along with members of the Research Working Group. The workshop began with presentations about the public access environments in each of the pilot countries. This included:

  • Landscape analysis — What are the major types of public access points (libraries, cybercafes, telecentres)? What is the scale? Who funds them? What are their missions? Who goes to them? What are some of the major activities that people do in these centers? Are there other distinguishing characteristics?
  • Story gathering & visual representation — What does public access look like? How do people describe the best possible outcome case of people using the center? The average/typical case? The worst case?
  • Data availability — What data exists about public access in the country? Types and number of venues, user numbers and demographics, and any other data that can be collected.

Following this, members of the Research Working Group presented a number of methodological approaches for consideration, including:

  • Inventory and taxonomy (George Sciadas)
  • Outcome mapping (Ricardo Ramirez)
  • Most significant change (Ricardo Ramirez)
  • Retrospective study (Mike Best)
  • Quasi-experimental designs (Mike Best)

Research design brainstorm

Dividing into three groups with the Country Research Teams, participants developed hypotheses based on the characteristics of each country’s public access environment. Several ideas came out of this process, including the role of infomediaries, the gender of operators, and types of restrictions on computer usage. The general conclusion? More information is needed to develop research questions that the Country Research Teams can confidently state represents the most important and relevant dimensions of public access to study in their respective countries.

Operationalizing the overarching research questions

Francois Bar, chair of the Research Working Group, presented a reformulation of the overarching research questions in terms that will lead to better operational research designs.

  • Is there impact? YES/NO. If so, how much?
  • Could we do it better? YES/NO. If so, how much? (relates to differing program design conditions)
  • Is there something else we could do to achieve equal impact? YES/NO. If so, how much? (covers the cost/benefit question)

Next steps: parallel activities to develop research designs

Workshop participants underscored the need to undertake a number of parallel activities that will allow the project to develop a set of research designs.

The Research Working Group will meet during the summer to review preliminary findings and research designs from the Research Working Group. A second global workshop will be scheduled in the fall to finalize the research strategy for phase two of the project.