Friday, May 27, 2005

Digital divide and Internet innovation

I got this question in an email today:

Is it possible that in the rush to develop new ideas and innovations to make the web experience even more interactive we're going to alienate the very people we're trying to attract in the first place?

I'm concerned as well with these issues. If we hope to close the digital divide, we need to move really quickly to train and update the users - as things change so rapidly in the online world. I don't think that "dumbing it down" is the solution, though

I know lots of people who use the Net quite a bit who double click on links routinely as they learnt on a Windows desktop and never learnt differently, but it generally works , so they won't change. (fine sometimes, but a real pain on some forms and some sites) However, sometimes they complain that they've been "cheated" by a site that charged them twice, or that a site won't work (because they double clicked) and blame the site, not their lack of skill.

But - after the intro to the Internet class, what then? As non-IT people do we expect them to suddenly get interested in and spend lots of time keeping up on new developments? Or should we recommend that they take a refresher course every 6-12-18 months? And who pays for this?

The Information Society requires lifelong learning, but this is not yet a given in the Actual Society. Our systems are set up for most people to learn in school and then they done. Adult education is for highly motivated self selected people (like us!).

And this is for the developed countries.

In LDCs, we are talking about a whole different system. In order to surf the net the way it is today, we ASSUME literacy. Internet training and classes ASSUME literacy in Western Script, even, if not English. So - I doubt that the divide can close without a great paradigm change - as literacy ain't going to happen in time - we need people to use the connectivity and access the information in other ways - like the audio and video projects that are being implemented in rural Africa and India.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Bribery and corruption - Where are the police?

For the past 3 weeks Trinidad and Tobago has been hit with a very confusing bribery scandal. A PNM (political party in power) councillor alleged that he paid bribes to 2 ministers. They have both vigorously denied the allegations, one has produced documents and cancelled cheques to prove that the payments were repayments of a loan. The councillor has retracted his allegations, then retracted the retraction. One minister has resigned while the matter is investigated. The other is still in place.

So - the PNM has just decided to "put the matter in the hands of the Prime Minister".
The opposition is demanding that the matter be sent (by the PNM) to the Fraud Squad.

Now the questions - if a man makes a PUBLIC STATEMENT that he committed a crime - where are the police? Why has he not been arrested for bribery (according to his own statement)?
Why does the matter need to be sent to the Police by the Government? Can the Police not investigate these claims on their own? Can the opposition not ask the police to investigate? Cannot any citizen?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Women in Science and technology - 20 years later?

In almost all of the cases that I know - from school days to the
present, it has been social pressure that has caused women to shift
form the technical to the non-technical or less technical field. The
standard - it's not a female thing to do... I was lucky in that both
my parents were really supportive of my decision to go into engineering.
I've also noticed that with teenage girls, the lack of female role
models in the field is also a big factor. I've done some school
visits, and one of the things cited by most of the girls was that they
had never seen a female engineer (on TV, in the movies, in real life,
etc) so they didn't consider it a viable career choice.

A question to consider is:
Do you consider the move into management in a technical field to still
be "women in science and tech" or not?

For my part, I prefer doing hands-on tech, but have moved to a less
hands-on more intellectual/mangement tech position as I have gotten
older and moved up - it's basically the management dilemma- do well
enough at what you like and eventually you'll get promoted and not be
able to do what you like - just supervise those who are doing it.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Brian Charles Lara - why they beating up on him so?

Lara is a great batsman, but he's awful, selfish and bad for the team? Where's the evidence of this? I haven't seen that. I've seen a man who has had the misfortune of trying to lead a team that has had some of the most mediocre talents ever seen (e.g. Courtney "can't catch a cold" Browne), has had no stability whatsoever, where new talents are thrust into the crucible of Test cricket without proper preparation and unceremoniously removed, their career hopes in dust, after they failed (as they could be expected to - having had no development or preparation from the WICB Development Committee)
Through this all, he has taken the weight of the reputation of the Windies on his shoulders, with support at times from Chanderpaul, Gayle, recently Sarwan. He's managed by prolific batting to keep us from being relegated to the dungheap of cricket. Now - we aren't far from it, but still!
Lara's the reason the Windies are in a mess!?! Why? Because so many people (READ WICB here) are so het up about him that they will prefer to destroy the team rather than give him any credit.
Or because he can bat amazingly and so when he's there no-one else feels they have to step up and put runs on the board?
So - dammed if he does and dammed if he doesn't.
I think Brian should hold on as long as wants to, then retire. To hell with the Board. History will be much kinder to him than those nattering idiots in the cricket press - Colin Croft not least among them!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Telecommunications and Choice in Trinidad and Tobago

So - the local monopoly telecomms company, TSTT, has decided to offer a "SmartChoice" package to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. This is supposed to reduce our bills, by moving to per-minute billing (that the law has refused to allow them to do), giving us "bundled" minutes and discounts on ADSL packages, and very low international call rates. However, they have not included calls to OTHER ISP's POPs in the bundled minutes. So, from 23cents to check your email or surf, it becomes 20 cents PER MINUTE if you are with an ISP that is not TSTT.

Hmmm... does this sound like illegal competition? Seems to me that they are creating an incentive for customers of other ISPs to switch - inducing them with low international calls, cheaper calls to cell phones and discounts on other services. But the other ISPs cannot compete - how can they? They have to get the local lines from TSTT. They have no choice. Not a Smart choice nor a Stupid choice.

Now - the Smart Choice package is really good for some people. But for the others, it is a really bad choice indeed.