Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I think the most pressing digital divide is one of color. In the video, everyone working in the factory is “of color,” according to one of the employees, while the majority of the computers are shipped off to affluent white people.

As Winner illustrated pretty clearly, an increase in the sheer supply of info available out there online is not sufficient for kick-starting some kind of social revolution. Those with the means for best using the info will be most benefited by it – which explains why the white American has made far better use of the Internet than any of the country’s minority groups.

For example, various online publications (salon.com, bbc news, NAACP online) reported that the election was essentially stolen from Gore (and all of the minorities that voted for him). However, since the majority of minorities are not online, they could do nothing with this information. How’s that for empowerment? Also, the more information that’s out there, the easier it is for those in power to say, “Oh, that’s just unsubstantiated crap from some online source.”

Three things, equally important, should be done: (1) Minorities need to be convinced that technology is important both to their short-term and long-term livelihood, (2) Technology needs to be made accessible to them, and (3) An effective method of teaching them the not-so-complicated skills of using technology needs to be implemented.

For one and three, simple books without all the technical jargon could be of some help. Especially since they could be made available in other languages. As for (2), I honestly don’t know. The passing of time alone reduces the costs of technology, but that’s not enough. I have the sense that if a great idea for (2) existed, it would have been at least tried already. But maybe I’m wrong. Either way, I don’t have the solution to that one.

-josh

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