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Digital Divide

February 17, 2010

In my experience, the reality of a “digital divide” gets a lot of shrugs from technology visionaries. Their attitude is: So, a few people don’t want the Internet and a few people can’t afford it – tough luck for them.

At our conference in Alexandria, the Internet gurus would find it much harder to shrug off the global digital divide. My workshops included journalists plotting careers as interactive correspondents, but the sessions also included journalists who could reach their remote audiences only through TV and radio. When I talked about the electrifying changes in journalism, they pointed out the persistent illiteracy afflicting large regions of their countries. When I talked about the development of analytical journalism, they responded that their audiences needed simple, basic, reliable information.

One journalist from a Mideast war zone clung to that old journalistic concept that has largely lost its meaning in the West: objectivity. Only by striving for objectivity, he argued, can a journalist in this part of the world hope to achieve credibility, and begin to sort through the competing passions. Blogging was the last thing on the minds of such journalists.

This is not a question of a few people left out of the loop. These journalists represent billions of people who will be even further marginalized by the development of the information economy. To these billions, the Internet is just another imperialist tyranny grinding them into the dust.

This is an issue that deserves serious consideration by the world’s best technological minds. Like all electronic technology, the Internet can leapfrog into isolated communities. It can be used as a great tool to fight illiteracy. Like TV, it can help bring people together. Far beyond the powers of TV, it can create powerful communities able to fight for their interests.

In a wired world, the poor would finally have a place at the table. If the bottom billions are left out of the communications revolution, however, the world will become even more divided between rich and poor, North and South. That’s nothing to shrug about.

– Steve Strasser

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 19, 2010 9:28 am

    Though I have not been a Twitter person at all, reading FOEDA tweets today really gave me a run down of some key moments, quotes and impressions during the Alexandria interaction . . . I guess I am now converted and would be tweeting . . . However, I have realised that very few of us are tweeting compared to Facebooking . . . I am waiting for ICFJ to start a proper website on digital journalism instead of something called FOEDA . . . Lets think of an interesting name which neither sounds too serious nor too funny . . . I could bring home a lot of knowledge and exposure from the conference . . . Thanks every body . . . Thanks very much . . . 🙂

    • Lucy Chumbley permalink
      February 19, 2010 11:12 am

      I agree Naveed — both with the Facebook vs Twitter comment and with the desire to come up with a name that will broaden the dialogue!

  2. Amanda Wilson permalink
    February 19, 2010 7:02 pm

    Thanks, Professor Strasser. I really enjoyed the analysis workshop. A view of the information economy also gives me a lot to think about, but I don’t feel so intimidated anymore.

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