Who Uses Public Access Venues?

Who Uses Public Access Venues?

Ricardo Gomez (University of Washington, USA) and Kemly Camacho (Cooperativa Sulá Batsú, Costa Rica)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-771-5.ch002
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Who are the customers of public access venues, where do they come from, and what are their needs? In order to better understand the situation – success or failure – of public access venues, and how to move forward with policies, funding, and further research, it is crucial to better understand who uses public libraries, telecenters, and cybercafés. While there have been studies in different countries about users of individual telecenters or libraries (Becker et al., 2010; Gurol & Sevindik, 2007; Tiwari, 2008), it is difficult to fully answer these questions, even in a study of the magnitude of this one, which represents roughly 250,000 venues in 25 countries around the world. Nonetheless, we can use the data collected in this study to paint broad brushstrokes that give a better overall picture of the types of users of public libraries, telecenters,, and cybercafés. In this chapter, we discuss the main findings in relation to the users of public access venues, particularly in relation to gender, age, education, and income, as well as location (urban or non-urban)1 of the different types of venues. By understanding who is using public access venues, the providers of the access, be it a public library, a telecenter, or a cybercafé, can more accurately direct resources to better serve their current audience, as well as identify ways to reach out to other marginalized sectors of the population that are being left out, in order to maximize the benefits of public access.
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Gender Differences

The first demographic variable we looked at was gender. Past experience, and other studies of public access venues, especially studies of telecenters (Abbasi, 2007; APC WNSP, 2009; Gurumurthy, 2004; Kuriyan & Kitner, 2009; Obayelu & Ogunlade, 2006; Ramilo & Cinco, 2005), indicate a significant gender gap in public access venues. The venues are, reportedly, visited and used primarily by men. Upon analyzing our data, we were surprised to find that in the countries and venues we studied, the gender differences that emerge are not as pronounced as the literature had led us to expect. As shown in the following figure, our study indicates that overall trends in the gender distribution of users of the different types of public access venues tend to be quite similar among men and women around the world, with small differences that we will discuss in detail below.

Figure 1.

Gender Differences in Users by Venue Type (based on aggregated data from 25 countries in the Landscape Study; totals do not add up to 100%)

Public libraries appear to have the smallest difference in gender distribution of users, with a slightly higher proportion of women visiting libraries than men (Agosto, Paone, & Ipock, 2007; Applegate, 2008). Telecenters and cybercafés, on the other hand, tend to be visited more frequently by men than women. While the gender difference is smaller in the case of telecenters, in the case of cybercafés the difference may be more important (16 percentage points for cybercafés vs. 9 percentage points for telecentres). This data confirms that an access gaps still exists with regard to gender, but women were clearly using all of the public access venues we surveyed, and their use is not insignificant.

Commenting on an earlier version of this chapter, Francisco Proenza (personal communication) rightly noted that the apparent gender balance does not take into consideration the fact that 1) cybercafés are far more numerous than other venues (even if the numbers are exaggerated) and 2) public access venues are more concentrated in urban settings. Our data is not robust enough to analyze the urban/non-urban divide and how it relates to gender or other variables among users, but if we take into consideration the relative weight of the number of cybercafés vs. the number of libraries and telecenters, the gender difference in use of public access venues becomes more significant. This difference/significance is displayed in the following figure:

Figure 2.

Gender Differences in Users by Venue Type (based on aggregated data from 25 countries in the Landscape Study)

If we weigh the gender distribution of the users in relation to the number of venues in each type, the difference between men and women using cybercafés becomes clearer given the fact that there are far more cybercafés than other types of venues. Taking into account the numerical predominance of cybercafés, the gender difference in use of cybercafés appears to be more significant. At the same time, this reading of the data also minimizes the gender disparity among users of libraries and telecenters and over emphasizes the gender equity of the use of libraries and telecenters as public access venues.

Based on the above, we suggest that public access initiatives that explicitly address and correct social inequities and gender differences, as is most frequently the case in public libraries and telecenters, are more successful at transforming the gender imbalance of women having more limited access and use of ICT in public access spaces. But this gender imbalance remains untouched, or is further exacerbated by initiatives that only provide access to technology, as is the case of cybercafés. Additional discussion of gender and its impact on public access is found in Chapter Six.

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Ricardo Gomez
Chapter 1
Melody Clark, Ricardo Gomez
In order to understand the implications of this study, it is important to understand the context in which it was conducted. Consequently, this book... Sample PDF
Libraries, Telecenters and Cybercafés: A Comparison of Different Types of Public Access Venues
Chapter 2
Ricardo Gomez, Kemly Camacho
Who are the customers of public access venues, where do they come from, and what are their needs? In order to better understand the situation –... Sample PDF
Who Uses Public Access Venues?
Chapter 3
Elizabeth Gould, Ricardo Gomez
Building capacity for collecting content and enabling access to information by community members means training staff as well building their digital... Sample PDF
Infomediaries and Community Engagement are Key
Chapter 4
Ricardo Gomez, Elizabeth Gould
In this study, the authors found that trust is a key factor that drives people to actually make use of ICT in public access venues. Several factors... Sample PDF
Perceptions of Trust: Safety, Credibility, and “Cool”
Chapter 5
Melody Clark, Ricardo Gomez
To help frame their findings and discussion, the authors begin with a review of the existing published literature on user fees and other barriers to... Sample PDF
“Free” Service or “Good” Service: What Attracts Users To Public Access Computing Venues?
Chapter 6
Allison Terry, Ricardo Gomez
Studies show that due to systemic gender biases in the use of and access to ICTs and their applications, as well as socio-cultural norms that... Sample PDF
Gender and Public Access ICT
Chapter 7
Elizabeth Gould, Ricardo Gomez
Libraries play a central role as venues that offer public access to information. Increasingly, libraries in developing countries are offering access... Sample PDF
Challenges for Libraries in the Information Age
Chapter 8
Elizabeth Gould, Ricardo Gomez, Kemly Camacho
User information needs vary by geographic location as well as by economic and social standing, among other factors. These factors drive the format... Sample PDF
How do Public Access Venues Meet Information Needs in Underserved Communities?
Chapter 9
Ricardo Gomez
Throughout this book, we have detailed the profile of a public access venue user, discussed the role of venue staff in public access venues... Sample PDF
Success Factors for Public Access Computing: Beyond Anecdotes of Success
Chapter 10
Ricardo Gomez, Kemly Camacho, Elizabeth Gould
This chapter describes how the global Landscape Study was designed and carried out. The Landscape Study informs all the findings and results... Sample PDF
Behind the Scenes: Research Methodology and Analytical Framework
Chapter 11
Adrián Rozengardt, Susana Finquelievich
Public Access ICT in Argentina
Chapter 12
Marta Voelcker, Gabriel Novais
Public Access ICT in Brazil
Chapter 13
Adriana Sánchez, Kemly Camacho
Public Access ICT in Costa Rica
Chapter 14
Luis Fernando Barón, Mónica Valdés
Public Access ICT in Colombia
Chapter 15
Francia Alfaro, José Pablo Molina, Kemly Camacho
Public Access ICT in Dominican Republic
Chapter 16
Katia Sotomayor, Juan Fernando Bossio
Public Access ICT in Ecuador
Chapter 17
Melissa Arias, Kemly Camacho
Public Access ICT in Honduras
Chapter 18
Public Access ICT in Peru  (pages 228-248)
Juan Fernando Bossio, Katia Sotomayor, Erick Iriarte
Public Access ICT in Peru
Chapter 19
Ananya Raihan
Public Access ICT in Bangladesh
Chapter 20
Rohit Kumar Nepali, Bibhusan Bista
Public Access ICT in Nepal
Chapter 21
Maria Juanita R. Macapagal, Mina Lyn C. Peralta
Public Access ICT in Philippines
Chapter 22
Ibrahim Kushchu
Public Access ICT in Malaysia
Chapter 23
Ibrahim Kushchu
Public Access ICT in Indonesia
Chapter 24
Andrew P. Beklemishev
Public Access ICT in Kazakhstan
Chapter 25
Tracey Naughton, Lkhagvasuren Ariunaa
Public Access ICT in Kyrgyzstan
Chapter 26
Tracey Naughton, Ondine Ullman
Public Access ICT in Mongolia
Chapter 27
OPINIA Independent Sociological and Information Service
Public Access ICT in Moldova
Chapter 28
Public Access ICT in Georgia
Chapter 29
Leelangi Wanasundera
Public Access ICT in Sri Lanka
Chapter 30
Tina James, Alan Finlay, Michael Jensen, Mark Neville, Rasagee Pillay
Public Access ICT in South Africa
Chapter 31
Tina James, Milton Louw
Public Access ICT in Namibia
Chapter 32
Ndaula Sulah
Public Access ICT in Uganda
Chapter 33
Yahia Bakelli
Public Access ICT in Algeria
Chapter 34
Nayer Wanas
Public Access ICT in Egypt
Chapter 35
Ibrahim Kushchu
Public Access ICT in Turkey
About the Contributors