Digital Divide Program Takes Unexpected Turn

LINCOS, an internet program targeted at the rural poor in Costa Rica draws and benefits the rich.
July 27, 2003, 9am PDT | Connie Chung
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In the two years since its inception, "the Little Intelligent Communities (LINCOS), the world's first pilot information and communication technology project in Costa Rica,...has experienced the opposite of what its founders - MIT, Microsoft, Alcatel, and the Costa Rican government - expected....The goal of the LINCOS project was to help one of the most troubled communities in Costa Rica to overcome the difficulties of ... rural isolation. The challenge was to provide a rural community with services they otherwise couldn't have....For health problems, LINCOS proposed telemedicine; for education, IT supplements and training; and for employment, jobs at the LINCOS center.Instead of aiding the poor, however, the project attracted the relatively rich. Its most avid users were some of the 1,500 coffee farmers in the region who traveled to LINCOS to learn how to market their products online. According to LINCOS staff, local residents were not interested in the project or used it only for accessing pornography and vice." Due to the success that LINCOS has had on local businesses, as part of a new strategy, LINCOS will relocate to San Juan, where it will "attract local businesspeople who have money and are interested in e-commerce services. It also will provide commercial Internet-cafe style services for local residents." The program's founders hope that a boost in local businesses will indirectly benefit the poor.

Thanks to Connie Chung

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Published on Thursday, July 24, 2003 in The Christian Science Monitor
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