Intermediaries in ICT4D: The other "I"


The challenge of bringing developing countries into the “information society” has been traditionally framed as bridging the digital divide. Meeting this challenge has predominantly been through technical solutions aimed at providing physical access to the Internet. Yet, other aspects of the divide such as low literacy rates, gender and religious issues arguably pose bigger hurdles in getting the benefits of the Internet to the vast majority of the population of developing countries. They are seldom aware of the information available on the net and even when they are, they have difficulty using it. To facilitate access and use of the Internet by the population, an intermediary is often needed. While case studies in the literature have shown several examples of such intermediaries, the role of this entity has not been conceptually examined. In this paper, we attempt to meet this knowledge gap by conceptualizing the characteristics, types and roles of the Intermediary entity. We provide examples from both published work and our own empirical data to illustrate our conceptualizations. Based on this, we discuss implications for research and practice.

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