Why do people use public access venues?

The last two posts on findings from the User Profile paper described that many people only have access to computers and particularly the Internet at public access ICT venues. Public access ICT venues also provide many with their first opportunity to gain experience with computers and the Internet. However, as displayed in the last post, there are public access ICT venue users that do indeed have access to computers and the Internet at their homes. In three countries, Chile, Ghana, and the Philippines, around a quarter to a third of users surveyed have Internet access at home. Even in the lowest household penetration rate, almost 15% of users in Bangladesh have Internet access at home.

Given the rates of Internet access at home, which are mostly above the respective country averages, it begs the question of why users who have Internet access at home frequent public access ICT venues. We know that for many users, it is their only option for access, but what drives users that have access at home to use computers and ICT at public access venues? For many it is because public access venues offer better equipment than at home, which could also mean a faster Internet connection. Another significant reason is to see friends or be with other people in the venue. In Brazil, where users enjoy the highest percentage of Internet access at home, these are the two main reasons users visit public access venues.

As the chart shows below, there are significant percentages in the “other” response, particularly for Chile and Brazil. Some of these “other” reasons include free access, not having to compete with their family members for computer and Internet use at home, software and services provided at the venue, and the convenient location of the venue.

Main reason for venue use; Sciadas, G., with Lyons, H., Rothschild, C., & Sey, A. (2012)

As our data shows, many users who do have access at home still frequent public access venues. Qualities and characteristics of public access venues, outside of just providing access, encourage the use of these venues and add value for the users. To some, this may mean a faster connection or a place to use Microsoft Word, to others it is a convenient stop along their daily path where they can socialize and meet other people in the community. Regardless of the reason, it is clear from our survey data that people use public access venues even when they have Internet access at home, which suggests that public access venues have more to offer than just access alone.

In upcoming posts based on findings in the User Profile paper, we’ll explore more about public access venue users. Is it true that most public access venue users young males playing games? Are public access venue users the “poorest of the poor”? How far will users travel to visit a public access venue? All of these questions and more in upcoming posts!

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Source: Sciadas, G., with Lyons, H., Rothschild, C., & Sey, A. (2012). Public access to ICTs: Sculpting the profile of users. Seattle: Technology & Social Change Group, University of Washington Information School.