Sexy divides…

04Apr08

OK, the title may put me in searches I don’t want to be, but maybe this will open some eyes to things other than Britney Spears latest navel gazing adventures! So, if that’s you…buckle up and hang on…this ain’t even soft-core (it’s medium-core thinking with your other head!) – or click here.

Before I begin…let me know if the hyperlinks are out of control. I’m experimenting with using hyperlinks as footnotes – not original perhaps, but I thought I’d give it the ole’ college try.

I’m still stuck on the consensus that emerged from a class this week questioning the existence of the digital divide. Prior to the emergence of the digital divide as a sexy topic, the information sciences (and library sciences) referred to this as information poverty.

For me, I placed the emphasis on the poverty part of the earlier concept or issue. Which, of course, brings me back to a realm I’m slightly more comfortable with: economics or social issues. This frames the issue of a digital divide in terms of the long-standing haves versus the have-nots, and I think this is the right place to be and discuss this problem – whether it’s first world
versus
third world (or whatever the latest post-Cold War nomenclature is) or Birmingham, Alabama (see below).

 

Working on the somewhat tenuous idea of where there’s smoke there’s fire, I did some poking around the Internet and found some interesting tidbits of information on and about the digital divide. I’m not including the Wikipedia entry here, but it looks pretty good based on looking at these sites and doing some reading (most of these sites include articles, news stories, etc.).

  • Pew Internet & American Life Project – the granddaddy of digital divide sites. But seriously, this is a well-funded and respected undertaking spanning many domains of Internet and computer uses, services, and potentials. Of particular interest is the section on Internet Evolution.
  • The Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies and Development (GAID) – this is a United Nations initiative emphasizing the potential for ICT to take a bite out of international poverty – not just the information kind (I wonder what Bill Crowley would say about this one?).
  • The Digital Divide Network – I somehow missed this one long ago (kind of like the switch from Atari to TRS-80s!). This website is a wealth of information and resources in one place. Definitely more on the activist side (read their about page), and now affiliated as a unit within the Center for Medial & Community, which is part of the Education Development Center. Nonprofit, educator, and community activists all in a convenient one-stop shop! Worth a longer look (unless you’re still looking for Brittney Spears).
  • OLPC (one laptop per child) – sure you’ve heard about this and maybe seen one of the commercials, but did you know they’re now operating in Birmingham, Alabama? That’s right. Not just in Mexico, Peru.
  • The Digital Alliance – a startup, but so too was Microsoft back in the early 1980s! This is one of a number of web-based educational initiatives. Check back in another few years to make sure they’re still around.
  • Govcom.org – Amsterdam-based nonprofit interested in mapping networks.
  • Digital Citizenship – University of Pittsburgh research collaborative.
  • Digital Divides: Past, present, and future Volume 1, Issue 5 (Summer 2003) – while you’re there check out the rest of the IT & Society web journal site (seems like they faschizzled after 2004).

 

Here’s a short reading list of books (available on amazon.com and other
places I’m sure):

For those looking for a more cerebral approach:

 

And for those looking for a graphical representation of the digital divide…well, I don’t have a pretty picture or graph for today. What I did stumble across while wandering through the berry fields of the Internet is another interesting project – focusing on Internet connectivity or digital inclusion (hey, you have to start somewhere, right? Déjà vu): 50X15.

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