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.

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