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Regional News of Monday, 9 September 2013

Source: GNA

Digital revolution needs efficient PAVs – STEPRI Study

Although Public internet Access Venues (PAVs) have been identified as important to the solution for the digital divide, a new study in Ghana has shown that most PAVs are beset with numerous challenges including poor internet connectivity, virus infections and hardware problems.

The study published for the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) of the Council of Scientific and Industrial (CSIR) on the “Deployment and Utilization of Public Access Venues: The Case of Ghana”, also identified lack of easy access and special services for physically challenged persons at most PAVs.

It formed part of the Global Impact Study on Access to Public ICT for five countries namely Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Ghana and Philippines. The Technology and Social Change Group of the Information School, University of Washington, Seattle USA led the study.

PAVs are a critical gateway for developing skills among the public, and they offer many people their first experience with computers and the internet in a country.

In Ghana, the study carried out in Greater Accra, Ashanti and Western regions, noted that the majority of the PAVs were privately owned and set up profit reasons with limited 6-15 computers. Most PAVs had small physical structures with little or no rest places for those in queues.

“The small structures normally resulted in overcrowding, which made the venues very hot during the day and also noisy for serious users. The situation is aggravated by lack of air conditioners to reduce the heat in the internet cafes.”

It found also that the major source of finance for PAVs was ploughing back of profits or service fees, which has a negative effect on the scale of expansion activities since such sources of funding had its limitations.

Again it became evident that PAVs in Ghana were mostly used for leisure and communication, and educational purposes.

Using the facility (PAV) for governance, health, income, culture and language purposes was very limited for most users in the study area of the three regions of Ghana.

To check virus infection and a way to regulating usage, the study found that only a few PAVs have institutionalized policies and mechanisms such as filters and software to minimize infections.

In their recommendations, Dr Godfred Frimpong, the lead researcher together with his team, Paul Boadu, and Masahudu Fuseini, said to ensure effective development of PAVs in Ghana, the National Communication Authority, the regulator of the telecom industry, should explore the possibility of introducing some form of regulatory intervention into the internet market which presently was unregulated.

They said when that was done it would ensure growth and provision of improved quality of service.

The study also advocated the need for the PAV operators to provide easy access and special services for physically challenged people to enable them participate in the digital revolution as well as contribute to the country's socio-economic development.

It also called for the PAV operators to create congenial business environment including improving the physical conditions of the PAVs to make users comfortable.

“Advocacy groups should intensify their campaigns to ensure that owners of PAVs provide a conducive environment for the physically challenged to use PAV facilities.

In addition, the study recommended: “Government should endeavour to put more information about its activities and services online and also create awareness about the existence of such services to bolster good governance.

“Computer and internet skills training should form part of the non-formal education programme of the Ministry of Education. In this case while the participants are gaining some competence in numeracy and literacy, they will at the same time be acquiring functional skills to use computers and the internet”.

It also urged the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communication (GIFEC) to also expand its training programmes in computer skills through partnerships to cover as many people as possible.

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