Does universal access mean equitable access?: What an information infrastructure study of a rural Romanian community can tell us
Type of work: Article (academic)
Categories:Digital Divide | ICT Infrastructure | Information Society
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present the findings from a field study in Viscri, a village in Transylvania, Romania, to investigate the current state of information and communication technology (ICT) development in the village.
Design/methodology/approach – Researchers interviewed villagers in May 2007. Ethnographic methods were used to collect data and to assess villagers’ information needs. The information landscape in Viscri is presented and analyzed in local and national contexts. The national policies shaping Romania’s emerging information society are discussed and literature on the impact of ICT development at the community level is also reviewed.
Findings – Romania’s ICT policy goal of universal access needs to be better targeted. In Viscri, few adults showed interest in learning about or using computers. However, villagers understood that a good education that included computer education was necessary to assure better economic futures for their children. In light of the demographics, social conditions and cultural beliefs in Viscri, the most appropriate access point for ICT initiatives there should be programs aimed at school-aged children.
Research limitations/implications – The paper describes and discusses the information needs of one village. Further field investigation at the community level is necessary to discern the relevance of the findings to other villages both in Romania and elsewhere.
Practical implications – Further research, especially in the most underserved communities, will help to identify ways in which the information society and related policies can be more equitably implemented in Romania. What is learned in Romania can have implications for ICT development policy elsewhere.
Originality/value – The paper assesses critically the rhetoric of universal access. If universal access is going to remain an ICT policy goal, more research is needed at the community level in order to ensure that policy emphasis on access for all actually translates into equitable, meaningful ICT access for underserved communities.