Public Access ICT in Mongolia

Public Access ICT in Mongolia

Tracey Naughton (Socio-Economic Consultant, Mongolia) and Ondine Ullman (Educationalist, Mongolia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-771-5.ch026
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Executive Summary

Pact Mongolia conducted a study into Public Access to Information and Communication Venues in Mongolia between January and August 2008. This project was conducted under the auspices of the University of Washington, with Mongolia as one of 25 countries studied. The research examined public access to information venues and the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs), with a specific focus on underserved segments of the population.

As the second largest landlocked country in the world, Mongolia lies between Russia and China, with a population estimated in 2007 to be 2.6 million people, according to the National Statistical Yearbook. Thus, Mongolia is the least densely populated country in the world. Half of the population lives in or near the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, and the remaining population is scattered across twenty-one provinces called aimags.

The study was completed in two phases. The first phase, which was conducted from January to March in 2008, and researched five venues – public libraries, cybercafés and Internet centers, Khan Bank Information Centers (KBIC), Child and Family Centers, and telecenters. Following a global research workshop held in June 2008, the research into four of the five venues was deepened. Child and Family Centers were excluded from the final review when it was determined they function mainly as community development centers and not as public information access venues. Phase two began the fieldwork and was completed between April and August 2008.

The government of Mongolia recognizes the value of ICTs and has taken steps to ensure its development application. The prime minister has established and chairs the government’s Information and Communications Technology Agency (ICTA), through which e-government services are now available. While policy has been created, there remains a gap in the development of grassroots initiatives that allow the local populations to access and use ICTs.

Geographic location heavily impacts the public’s ability to access information in Mongolia. Non-urban populations, including herders who practice a nomadic lifestyle and the residents of often-remote rural settlements, are at a disadvantage in receiving and being able to access current information and digital services. Exposure to the Internet and user capacity remains low, largely due to the limited number of public access Internet points in these areas. Libraries are unable to meet the information needs of users with their outdated materials, crumbling infrastructure, and the lack of digital services.

The conceptual understanding of users with regard to the value of information, the right to seek information, and where to ask for information remains underdeveloped in Mongolia, and is seen as a common post-Soviet legacy. Public awareness campaigns are needed to highlight the rights of users to access information and to state where information can be found.

The rapid penetration of mobile telephony, and the very widespread use of mobile devices in Mongolia, is testament to the ease with which Mongolian's interact with and absorb new technology. This reality further points to the need for improved communications and information delivery mechanisms. When coupled with the country’s high literacy rates, the increased use of digital technology points to an even greater a need for a framework that supports physical access and capacity development.

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