By some estimates, there are over 150 rural PC kiosk projects in India, reaching approximately 10,000 rural villages across the country. Efforts like this to apply information and communication technologies to rural development are almost always led by urban technologists, who have preconceptions about villagers and their aspirations. In some cases, the urban-rural cultural differences are further augmented by transnational differences, as multinational corporations, headquartered in other countries, seek to address markets elsewhere.
We discuss a few myths frequently believed by wealthier city-dwellers about poor rural villages in India. While not entirely untrue, these myths tend to create cognitive barriers to good product design. Ethnographic investigation of rural villages and existing kiosk projects can lower these barriers and point product designers in directions that may not be obvious at the outset. In particular, we find that (1) villages are surprisingly up-to-date vis-à-vis modern communications capabilities, (2) some rural villagers aggressively seek out modern technology, and (3) even the poorest populations have desires that go beyond those required for physical sustenance. These facts, along with subtle qualifications, have immediate consequences for the design of rural kiosks and the services they deliver.