Public Access ICT in Georgia

Public Access ICT in Georgia

UNKNOWN UNKNOWN (Institute for Polling and Marketing (IPM), Georgia, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-771-5.ch028
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Executive Summary

Georgia was a key republic in the former Soviet Union until gaining independence in 1989. Like many of the other former component republics, Georgia then faced an uncertain future and entered a lingering state of political, social, and economic turmoil. Successive government administrations have struggled to overcome these issues and have instituted a number of reforms, but so far, the reforms have experienced only limited success. Many of the reforms directly affect public access to information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Georgia has not kept pace with the processes of developing access to information that have occurred in much of the rest of the world, and this is particularly true when compared to other European countries that have more favorable political and socio-economic positions. As an example, telecommunications and ICTs that lean heavily on landline access are unavailable in much of the remote rural regions because the infrastructure has not been maintained following the armed conflicts that have erupted on several occasions.

Because of the unusual conditions that exist in Georgia, the country was selected to be one of the 25 countries to participate in this investigative study that was designed both to assess the ability of the public to access information and communication venues, and also to review the role of ICTs across the overall economic, political, and regulatory framework in Georgia. The researchers assessed how the venues function, how they serve user needs, how they meet operational constraints, and how they realize successes.

The research team identified public libraries, Internet cafés, and the National Library of the Parliament of Georgia as the most important providers of public access to information and selected them as the primary objects of this study. The study focuses on these venues with regard to access, capacity, and environment based on in-depth interviews with key stakeholders, secondary data analysis, focus group discussions with venue users and operators, site visits, and a quantitative survey. Special attention was given to inequities and information needs of underserved communities and to the regulatory environment.

Methodology

When this study was designed and initiated in 2008, the research effort conducted in Georgia was aligned in two phases. In the first phase, the research team identified the venue types that were determined to be making the most important contributions to the public’s access to information. Public libraries, Internet cafés, and the National Library were selected after considering the results of interviews with persons who were identified as knowledgeable in the field, and based on 25 subsequent in-depth interviews with key stakeholders to obtain detailed information for each venue type. The information gathered through the various interviews was supplemented by information gathered in six focus-group discussions with venue employees and users, as well as from the results of 14 site visits, secondary data analyses, and a field survey of 792 users.

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