Tuesday, March 30, 2004

I say it’s a class divide (merely for sake of argument and to pretend I’m a socialist). As pointed out in the video and somewhat indicated in the study, those who have money and power tend to hoard money and power – despite the internet’s promise of democracy and equality. Like the Sand Hill Road race in the movie, most everyone started out on equal footing on the internet, but once the venture capitalists came in it all went downhill. No one can compete with this kind of money and power. As the director of Plugged In said, the territories on the net are not available to the poor.

This may be confused with race. Race is a determinant of making less money, as Raj (think that was his name?) said in the video, noticing that “almost everyone is of color” at the factory -- but instead of a black and white divide, “it is a potluck of color.” These people work – without much pay or union organization – to create the computers that we are using to write these outlines. But until race is thought of as class, with other disadvantaged races, the problem won't be properly addressed. The invisible underclass, working in a “high tech sweatshop” – without proper safety standards – allows us to enjoy the internet and computers.

It is this divide, between one’s propensity to labor in creating technology correlated to one’s propensity to enjoy such technology that is most stark. The small percentage of household incomes over $75,000 who don’t use the internet is nearly equal to the 23 percent of household incomes under $15,000 that do. The solution is to raise the ability of this disadvantaged class of people to pay for computers. Public libraries, work, etc will not alleviate the digital divide as the freedom to use a computer in different environments varies widely. Raising the minimum wage, affordable housing, etc, are the types of solutions that enable those who are less advantaged to more easily pay for necessities, allowing them to then consider connecting to the internet. It’s constantly said that one needs an address and phone number to apply for a job, when will the email address be added to this list? We need to raise the standard of living before this occurs, before this cycle of poverty is further entrenched by technology.

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