1.1 What is a community ICT center?

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) include a whole range of technologies used for communication and for processing information. Today’s community ICT centers have developed as physical spaces that provide shared public access to ICTs, primarily through computers, satellite radios, telephones (fixed and mobile) and fax machines.

Over the last two decades, these centers have gained prominence as physical hubs for bringing the benefits of ICTs to communities where the technological infrastructure is inadequate and/or the costs of individual technology access are relatively high. They provide opportunities for access to information by overcoming the barriers of distance and location. Through facilitating this access, the centers have the potential to foster social cohesion and interaction.

These centers may be purpose-built around the provision of digitized and wireless services, or alternately, digitization and connectivity might be integrated into an existing information or learning center. Ideally, community ICT centers do not function as isolated information stations. Rather, as the name suggests, they form part of existing facilities and institutions, such as health centers, schools, libraries and other hubs, that provide a mix of services for the community. There are many different models of these kinds of physical hubs, and this module attempts to illustrate a range – particularly those that deliberately engage with women users.