Telecenters and Internet cafés: the case of ICTs in small businesses
AbstractTelecenter initiatives run by non-profit agents are widely believed to be critical access points for digital inclusion. By contrast, Internet or cyber caf s are viewed generally merely as commercial sites, thus falling outside the purview of non-profit initiatives promoting e-literacy. From a contextual study of Internet caf s in urban and suburban Mumbai and in peri-urban small towns of Maharashtra state, India, we report on the localization of information and communication technology (ICTs), including how Internet caf s discern survival niches and how they often serve as reasonably-priced initiation nodes for first-time users. This article discusses a variety of context-specific and commercial instances of ICT services as manifest in everyday commerce. We argue that for-profit spaces like Internet caf s make a major contribution to digital immersion in information-poor contexts and that these so-called 'non-developmental' (read commercial) spaces successfully use ICTs to sustain businesses, to generate regular clientele, and to adapt to local demand. In an effort to open up debate around telecenters as privileged sites of digital inclusion, the functions of Internet caf s are then compared and contrasted with processes and behaviors associated with telecenters.