n South African Computer Journal - The role of the Internet in alleviating social exclusion : the case of the Western Cape Province




Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is perceived by many as a means of tackling the problem of social exclusion. This perspective has resulted in governments and donor agencies investing in the establishment of Internet access points (e.g. telecentres) in areas which are perceived to be socially excluded. Yet, beyond the belief of inherently beneficial ICTs, there has been little empirical work done to evaluate the impact of ICTs, notably the Internet, in addressing social exclusion. In this paper, we report on a study investigating whether the Internet contributes to alleviating social exclusion in developing countries. The cross-sectional study uses a qualitative research approach on four communities with government-funded Internet access points in the Western Cape Province, South Africa. The major finding of the paper is that the Internet plays a minimal role in alleviating social exclusion, and only a few members of the communities stand to benefit. The Internet on its own is not sufficient to address the problems of social exclusion; there are necessary preconditions which should be in place for the Internet to have an impact.


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