An Office ‘Hole-in-the-Wall’ Exploration

Using the debate around the “Hole in the Wall” experiment for children as a starting point, we ask a set of related questions around unrestricted PC access and learning, but in the context of adult non-information workers from low-income backgrounds in emerging market settings. Our central interest in this exploration is to understand whether and how free access to and unrestricted usage of a shared-access PC and the Internet at the workplace, translates to a variety of meaningful changes and welfare gains among the support staff at an urban corporate facility in southern India. Over the first five weeks of the intervention, we find usage increasing over time, though differentially among various support staff sub-groups. Entertainment-related applications (games, multimedia) and websites (“YouTube”, “raaga”) constitute the dominant content accessed by the staff. There is evidence of both intense individual exploratory usage by novices, along with extensive group usage and peer learning dynamics. The degree of personalization of the PC by users (changes to desktop background almost at every session) indicates a sense of ownership of the device. Preliminary measurements and feedback point to increases in worker morale and self-esteem over the course of the intervention. We highlight these observations as we propose additional questions going forward in this study.

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