One Laptop for Every Non-User
Hi everyone. My apologies for the very tardy blog, especially since the parity issue is one that is of great interest to me.
I agree with what others in class have said about some populations having knowledge of the the Internet and what it can do--or some idea of what it can do, and having the right to shrug it off if they want. I think each new form of technology has had its corners of resistance. I have a cousin who does not have a television. However, you guessed it, his two teenage children, and he, are on the Internet quite a bit. It amused me that the tone of the Pew report, "The Ever-shifting Internet Population", was kind of between wonderment and irritation that anyone who was able would dare NOT use the Internet. It kind of reminds me of a scene in
The Coalminer's Daughter,when Loretta Lynn's husband, Mooney, receives a message for her from a neighbor--yelled across a field--because the Lynn's are too poor, proud, or terrified to get a phone. (Relatives had to call the neighbor to send important, usually bad, news.) Finally the neighbor asks Mooney why they don't just get their own phone. Mooney says something innocuous, that I can't remember right now--like he prefers talking to people face to face.
There may be a point when not having Internet access will be just as much of an irritant as a neighbor without a phone, who has no problem giving out your number to relatives and friends. Have we reached that point yet? In my job we have gone from sending a series of mailings to admitted students to sending the information only by e-mail. It has been the rare admitted student who requests hard copies of information. Similarly, many areas of the University are directing people to websites rather than phone numbers or offices for information. Who are we not serving then?
I was surprised and disheartened by the information about disabled users and non-users in the Pew Population article. I had assumed that people with disabilities, though usually underemployed, had access to hardward and software for free or at a discount, because of the disability. Ceratinly, due to the limited populations such technologies serve, the costs are what they are, but don't state and federal programs assist with such costs? It seems like it would be good money spent--a user with limited mobility for whatever the reason is ideally suited for the specialized communities the Internet offers.
That the poor did not use the Internet did not surprise me since the costs of ISP service and hardware is an ongoing expense that is hard to justify when money is tight. I did wonder why the use of the Internet of African Americans tended to lag behind that of other groups, no matter the income or education level. I also wondered how American Indians faired in those groupings.
The OLPC project is laudable in my opinion, though I have to confess some of the technological specifications of the software elude me. I like that the hardware is durable and simple, the low energy options are thoughtful. I wonder how many emerging countries have accessible websites for children, however. I also wonder if what seems like a gift now could become a stigma later. No matter what word one uses for countries in need; developing, third world, emerging--there is a power structure at work of which I'm sure even children are aware. One needs to tread very carefully with other countries and their children. A failed program could bring a lot of bitterness later.
I also wonder if each country should be able to choose the level of technology it is able to sustain and not have standards imposed on them from outside sources. Or would this just cause a lot of confusion?