Kelsa+: Digital Literacy for Low-Income Office Workers

  • Aishwarya Ratan ,
  • Sambit Satpathy ,
  • Lilian Zia ,
  • Kentaro Toyama ,
  • Sean Blagsvedt ,
  • Udai Singh Pawar ,
  • Thanuja Subramaniam

Proc. of ICTD 2009 |

Published by IEEE

Almost all formal organizations employ service staff for tasks such as housekeeping, security, maintenance, and transport at their office facility. Many of these workers earn wages in line with menial-labor salaries in their respective countries. They have few on-the-job opportunities to upgrade their skills or learn new ones. Kelsa+ is an initiative through which organizations in developing countries can increase digital literacy and skill development among such low-income workers, through the provision of an Internet-connected PC for the service staff’s free, unrestricted use when off duty.

We study a Kelsa+ pilot implementation in Bangalore, India, involving an office facility with 35 service staff. In a preliminary exploration over 18 months, we find that at a cost that is negligible for the organization, workers’ use of the Kelsa+ PC is high and can deliver benefits both to themselves and to the office. For workers, broad gains were seen in confidence, self-esteem, and basic digital literacy, while a few individuals experienced improvements in second-language (English) proficiency and career opportunities. These early results point in the direction of a cost-effective ICT4D initiative that could be run in the developing-country offices of the very organizations promoting development off-site.