The value of the Internet as a development tool manifests itself in surprising ways but only about 10 percent of the people on the planet are familiar with the technology. The question is not only of availability of technology but what really matters is the ability to use and benefit from it
IInternet access is seen as a right in the developed world. There its access is common, the usage patterns follow a standard, which includes checking email, game-playing, travelling and gambling. But on the other hand in many developing nations it's not available easily, so when it is, it is seen as a gift. In countries where access is less easy to come by the patterns are very different; buying a permit to marry, looking for a grant to feed rabbits, even asking where next month's rent is coming from. In those countries, the Internet is a godsend, not a right.
In Madhya Pradesh, India, an illiterate woman approaches the soochak (manager) of an Internet kiosk. She complains about a water well that is not operating, and the soochak uses a PC to enter her complaint on an electronic form, and then uploads it to a local hub, where it is registered with the authorities. In Lima, Peru, a woman needs to contact her emigrant son in New York City for money to pay a doctor's bill. She goes to the local cabina p˙blica, a small computer center, she makes a short call to her son for a sol or less-about US 30c. In Hungary, a man who hunts rabbits asks a computer operator to surf the web and find a government grant for seed corn. He wanted use this corn to feed his rabbits through the winter, so they'll be fatter for spring hunting. Access all areas These three cases are all strong examples of people in less-developed areas reaping real benefits from Internet access. The value of the Internet as a development tool manifests itself in surprising ways and most important of all, none of these users needed to become computer literate to benefit from Internet access. In fact, only about 10 percent of the people on the planet are familiar with the Internet and what it can do. Most of them live in industrialised countries, or if they live in developing countries, they are part of the well-off, well-educated, and often English-speaking minority that lives in urban areas. Few come from the poor and sometimes illiterate majority. The split between those with and those without access to digital technologies is often called the digital divide.
But that phrase hides the complexity of the problem, because it focuses on the "having" and the "not having" of technology. Instead, what really matters is the ability to use and benefit from technology, whether or not that technology is personally owned. Although many people and organisations know that simply giving away computers is not going to bridge the digital divide, it's still not clear what should be done. Conditions in Tokyo don't match with those in Lima, Peru; those in New York City don't match with those in Madhya Pradesh, India. And, as it turns out, technology alone isn't the solution. What these Indian, Peruvian, and Hungarian examples have in common is the relevance to local social networks and local business needs that led to successful applications. All over the developing world, public Internet facilities are springing up to fill niches and make lives better. These facilities are far different from the Internet cafes that are well established on the urban scene, where people who are already Internet savvy access their e-mail or play games. Public Internet facilities are increasingly solving real developing world problems. An information kiosk and a cabina p˙blica are different in appearance and in operation. Each, however, is economically valuable to its local community. The proprietors and entrepreneurs running these establishments rely on local social networks and the knowledge of how to mobilise resources locally to benefit the community. They use and in sowhatever technology they can access to meet the needs of their local customers. Moreover, major organisations and manufacturers like Intel are beginning to define and design indigenous products. Platform Definition Centres (PDCs) have been established in four developing markets; India, Egypt, Brazil, and China, to help define new computing platforms and technologies that meet local market needs.