Digitally Divided @ Home & Abroad
I read in the BBC today about Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade urging the 1st world to contribute more substantially to building information technology infrastructures in the 3rd world. He makes a solid and legitimate argument about why it is good for all involved for the entire world to be on a more level footing with regard to tehcnology access. To the individual in DR Congo without internet access, the benefit is another path by which to garner information about any and all things. To the entrepreneur, wider internet access has the benefit of widening the potential customer base for your products. It is indeed a win-win.
Many 1st world countries, however, have third worlds within their own boundaries. This was evidenced in America recently by the Gulf Coast hurricanes of 2005, which I will not even begin to discuss here. We have 3rd worlds on multiple layers: poverty and economic disenfranchisement, hunger and lack of affordable human services, as well as technological ignorance. It is perhaps unjust to place technological concerns within the same thought as basic human needs. However, as society evolves and technology becomes a ubiquitous piece of 1st and 3rd world life, insufficient technical know-how could lead to discrimination in the other aforementioned arenas. We are already beginning to see signs of this creeping into view. Individuals with little/no computer experience are being overlooked for jobs all over the country. Children with little/no computer training are facing challenges as educations evolves digitally. In the “meritocracy” that is our world (well, I will actually describe how/why that is NOT true later, but I digress for now), these skills will become basic necessities for survival.
It is up to current generations to lay groundwork for future ones. The world must stand with President Wade at the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and unite towards making the Digital Divide extinct. In the mean time, I will continue my own work with the current, younger and older generations, helping them to understand ways in which technology can help them. No complaints without action.