Next to the brightly painted shipping container that houses the IT lab, Viviane Marakalala proudly showed off the village vegetable garden, which has been packed with leafy cabbages since a group of women learnt about drip irrigation from a computer program.
"I had never seen a computer in my life but now I know how to use it," said Marakalala, 27. "We looked in the computer and it told us in our language how to use our water better."
Run in tandem with local government, the i-Community project links libraries, community centers, clinics and schools around the main town of Mokopane to the Internet, and includes a PC refurbishing center, call center and micro-lender.
It also includes IT centers in rural villages like Dipichi, which until recently had neither water nor electricity and can be reached only by a dirt road. Computers are operated using satellite technology and residents hope that their presence will pressure local authorities to link their villages to the electricity grid.
Miriam Segabutsa, one of the project directors, conceded computer literacy might not seem like an obvious priority for a continent racked by disease and hunger, but insisted it could improve quality of life for ordinary people. "It is not about teaching computers for the sake of computers, it is about giving people access to the information they need," she told Reuters.
Cell phone companies have adapted wireless technology for myriad development uses like low-cost banking for the poor, delivering price information to rural farmers and monitoring AIDS patients in sprawling townships.
Cellular technology has won praise thanks to the lightning spread of mobile phones across Africa but some commentators wonder whether computers and the Internet can be as useful. If only a minority of people in Africa's richest country have access to the Web, Internet use is even rarer in the rest of the continent, where populations are more scattered, resources scarce and where few multinationals dare to venture.