Mechanisms of access to the Internet in rural areas of developing countries

M.J. James

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Because of severe affordability and skills constraints it is especially difficult to bring the Internet to rural areas of developing countries. But a number of promising alternatives are beginning to emerge. These are mainly designed to bring the Internet to non-users, that is, persons who do not actually come into direct contact with the technology. Such persons make up the bulk of the rural population in most developing countries. Two possibilities exist: one that involves intermediation at a distance (blending) and the other that takes place at close range (via say Internet kiosks). I use numerous examples to illustrate the potential of both these categories. For the minority of those who are able to actually use the Internet, costs can be lessened by a combination of communal institutions and technical sharing devices.

It is often thought that the Internet is too expensive and complex to be used in the rural areas of developing countries. After all, it is a technology designed in and for the very different conditions prevailing in the developed countries. Yet there are now numerous instances where the Internet is better suited to the low incomes, lack of skills and other features of rural areas in poor countries. At present however these examples are scattered across countries and other divides and they are conceptually not usually related to one another. This paper argues that the relevant mechanisms of access to the Internet can usefully be analyzed with the help of a simple tree-diagrammatic framework. Such an analysis will hopefully inform policy-makers who are keen to bring the benefits of information technology to the less advantaged households in their countries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-376
JournalTelematics and informatics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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