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The real problem with the global digital divide

A News.com reader says that while big opportunities exist to those with access to the Net, there needs to be a foundation (food, shelter, power, education) before access is possible.

     

      
    The real problem with the global digital divide

    In response to the July 17 column by Klaus Schwab, "The digital divide: Ignore it at your own risk":

    While I commend Schwab's grand vision, and certainly hope that opportunities can be found to sustain Internet access to people throughout the world, his quote from Powell (regarding the "Mercedes Divide") is a lot more word than his own examples.

    IT skills for street children in Brazil? How about getting them off of the streets. Internet kiosks in rural India? What source of electricity is going to power them? And telecenters throughout villages of Costa Rica? Who is going to pay for them?

    My point is that while tremendous opportunities exist to those with access to the Internet, there needs to be a proper foundation in place (food, shelter, power, education) before this access is possible.

    In addition, "cyberspace," "the information superhighway" or whatever else one would like to call the Internet is a relatively young space, and its impact on areas (particularly outside of academia and the sciences) has even a shorter history. Bridging the digital divide to bring communities up to something like today's Internet (assuming it's even possible) would leave them behind again as the immature medium continues to evolve and expand.

    So, to sum up: It'd be great to give everyone access to the Internet. It'd be great to get to realize some of the tremendous potential that each and every person on the Earth possesses. Entrepreneurs should be encouraged to pursue these goals. But to say that the U.S. government, or the American public at large, should be actively concerned about it seems to be a tremendous waste of energy that could be more efficiently placed elsewhere.

    Ed Ouellette
    Seattle