Telecentres and Cyber cafes: The case for ICTs in small business,

Rangaswamy and N


Telecenter initiatives run by non-profit agents are widely believed to be critical access

points for digital inclusion. By contrast, Internet or cyber cafe´s are viewed generally

merely as commercial sites, thus falling outside the purview of non-profit initiatives

promoting e-literacy. From a contextual study of Internet cafe´s in urban and suburban

Mumbai and in peri-urban small towns of Maharashtra state, India, we report on the

localization of information and communication technology (ICTs), including how

Internet cafe´s discern survival niches and how they often serve as reasonably-priced

initiation nodes for first-time users. This article discusses a variety of context-specific

and commercial instances of ICT services as manifest in everyday commerce. We argue

that for-profit spaces like Internet cafe´s make a major contribution to digital immersion

in information-poor contexts and that these so-called ‘non-developmental’ (read

commercial) spaces successfully use ICTs to sustain businesses, to generate regular

clientele, and to adapt to local demand. In an effort to open up debate around

telecenters as privileged sites of digital inclusion, the functions of Internet cafe´s are then

compared and contrasted with processes and behaviors associated with telecenters.


Publication typeArticle
Published inAsian Journal of Communication,
Pages 365-378
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