Monday, July 7, 2008

Bridging the Digitial Divide

About a week ago, I sat in a classroom in La Democracia, Belize. Although they do have a computer, the school has no Internet access. Our challenge was to figure out how to establish communication channels between our students and theirs. It's a bigger challenge than I thought. Internet access in developing nations apparently skips a that I mean that they do not run the "wires" and then dial-up from there, or even use cable lines. They use cell-phone tower Broadband to connect to the Internet, skipping the "wired" part entirely. This is cool because they benefit from the years of early technology experimentation we did here in the West. This isn't so cool because wireless broadband can be flaky at best. That, and we need to figure out a way to *pay* for that access, given that the school barely has enough money to pay its teachers.

So, now I'm going to throw a stinky wrench into the hot mess: maybe it's not necessary. Maybe we're moving too quickly and should start with snailmail? Egads! On a technology blog--snail mail? I do worry about the persistent cultural imperialism we as Americans unintentionally commit daily. My husband feels it's a kind of Darwinism, survival of the fittest culture. But then, I wonder how my host family felt, watching cabletv reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air in their modest, cinder block home. They really do think we all live like that here in the States. But, wait. As I write I have come full circle: We don't all live like that. Maybe that's the reason why we need Internet access. If they already have the TV channels telling them we live one way, it's up to us to tell them that we're not so different than they are. Internet access, with VOIP and such can help us to see we have a lot more in common than at first it seems.

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