and post offices provided relevant information. Informal interviews
with key persons, teachers, social workers, politicians, village priests filled gaps and updated information.
Kiosk ethnography: Broad Findings
Around 34 internet kiosks were begun in as many villages in 2001, most of them making use of government subsidy in the drive to entrench internet technologies. Most kiosks were set up in homes of prospective kiosk operators. Some set up shop next to their businesses, either a small pharmacy, general store or a photo studio(see Fig 1 and 2).
Fig 1 A general store….
A couple of kiosks got attached to thriving computer training institutes run by KO’s.
By the time of our study, there are 12 kiosks functioning under the Pabal LSP, 7 of them from the original 34 and 5 new. Kiosks ceased operations for various reasons: Some people who wanted PC’s at subsidized rates had posed as future KO’s and housed computers. Others sighted connectivity/hard ware issues and poor follow ups from n-logue as promised. Many expressed serious doubts about flagging off a new and expensive technology on a population with out serious technical and market support structures.
Ethnography around these villages and interviews with operators has driven home two interesting findings. Amidst considerable courage and conviction to steer kiosks towards sustainability, KO’s sense acute constraint in ways their ICT ventures depend on extraneous players and agencies. The internet becomes a very expensive and frustrating experience to both owners and clients of kiosks when hardware break down coupled with huge line of sight, connectivity and trouble shooting issues collide with periodic power cuts. Strapped scenarios offer little on-line activity and push the search for novel ways to use kiosk space to stay afloat. As an example, KO’s have shown immense drive in sniffing out commercial possibilities that were though non existent. Following success and swell in demand for pictures redesigned in Photoshop, a KO wanted to buy a digital handy cam to shoot weddings and
other important events around the village. He is convinced of its business prospects. Secondly, village ethnography revealed several contextual connections with kiosk survival. Why some villages prosper or do better business with ICT, is context-dependent ranging from degrees of industrialization/commercialization, proximity to markets to local consumption patterns. Degrees of urbanity in village contexts support a new crop of diverse occupations increasing the chances of KO’s that are quick and creative to transform these to business prospects.
Our ethnography covered the 12 existing PC kiosks, some making healthy business, some struggling, and two temporarily shut down. The four oldest surviving kiosks, each around three years old, Uruli Kanchan (pop: 50000), Ranjangoan (pop: 7200) Shikrapure (pop: 10,500), Kendur (pop: 8800) do well tying up with existing business or driven by good business skills.
Fig 2 … the kiosk housed behind
The four villages have specific social geographies that intersect with industrial/urban belts aiding kiosk business. Uruli Kanchan and Ranjangoan began by attaching kiosks to a flourishing business of teaching basic computer courses1. Uruli Kanchen bordering the outskirts of Pune city and four from Mumbai by rail offers a unique opportunity for its residents to work in urban districts and live in a village. Most people in this village commute to work and it boasts of a railway station with 17 trains passing through in a day. Ranjangoan, stationed on the fringes of an industrial belt, is a religious location drawing devotee tourists. The KO, the only women in our sample, aged 34, a post-graduate, mother of two teenaged daughters and a small son, is very energetic about making business for her kiosk.
1The state of Maharashtra introduced in the year 2000 a basic 3 month computer course, MS-CIT, compulsory for persons seeking government supported jobs. The above two kiosks offering the course make good money, charging 2010 INR per student ().
Being a bustling village, most of her profits are from attached services like Xerox and teaching computing skills. On an average, 20 students learn computers each month. She manages kiosk operations almost single handedly alongside a