Theme 7: Cities and Regions, and Community Empowerment in an Information Age
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  (Last updated: September 29th, 2005)
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  Commercial Telecentres and strategies for bridging the digital divide in urban areas of developing countries  
  Anikar Michael Haseloff  
  University of Augsburg, Germany  
  Asish Saboo, President  
  Association of Public Internet Providers (ApiAp), India  
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  This paper will discuss the interesting role commercial telecentres (often referred to as cyber cafés, cyber kiosk etc.) could play in ICT based urban development programs. In India for example, commercial public access models have mushroomed in the last few years in urban areas, where they are heavily used and are an important access place for more than 60 percent of the urban Indian Internet users in general. This paper will explore the potentials these urban ICT access model could have on bridging the digital divide especially for poor and marginalized urban communities. The conclusions are drawn on an empirical research in India and the findings include recommendations for political and institutional actions and programs, which could help to include commercial telecentres in effective ICTD4D initiatives for urban areas.  
  As it has been demonstrated in various successful rural ICT projects, there is a variety of relevant content and applications for poor and marginalized communities, and the commercial telecentres could help to spread applications and information to marginalized urban communities. Subsidized Information Kiosks could provide desperately needed information for slum dwellers, could provide cheap training for women from the lower classes or could support school education for kids from low-income households.  
  We want to show, that the commercial sector can learn valuable lessons from successful rural ICT projects regarding content and applications for marginalized communities but also, that government and development organizations should recognize commercial public access providers as important access model and infrastructure for the delivery of advanced services to marginalized urban communities.  
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