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Communications of the ACM

Global computing

Private Then Shared?

Senzo Ngidi of Cape Town, South Africa

Senzo Ngidi is a second-year business student from Makhaza, Cape Town. He relies on his cellphone and public libraries for Internet access.

Credit: Visual Voices

Not long ago people in richer countries thought people in low-income countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America would use personal computers to gain access to the information society. To overcome technical, social, financial, and other hurdles, richer governments and donor agencies invested in shared access computing facilities.3 The logic was flawless: if there cannot be a personal computer in every home, a shared computer in every village will do. The global telecenter movement was born: a collection of programs providing shared access computer and Internet services to poor and remote communities.4,5

Today with the unprecedented explosion of mobile telephony, many in our field have completely written off shared access. Some even question the necessity of personal computers. If mobile phones can meet computing and connectivity needs, who needs personal computers?2,9


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