While reading about some articles about the US$ 100 computer developed by Nicholas Negroponte at MIT Media Lab, I also wonder about the shift “from hard to soft” that the (upcoming) Web 2.0 is making happen.
Simplifying at the maximum, there are four aspects to consider when bridging the digital divide, say, the four classes of digital divide:
- Infrastructure: hardware, software and connectivity
- Capacitation and training: capacitation on infrastructure installation and maintenance, digital literacy (technological literacy and informational literacy
- Content and services: information, e-government, e-health, e-learning (not to be confused with capacitation), e-business, etc.
- e-Law and Internet government: intellectual property rights, domain registration, free access to the Internet, etc.
It has always seemed that point (1) was the most important to lesser developed countries. While we should argue on this, we’ll keep this debate aside. So, Negroponte’s project is just a means to bridge the digital divide caused by access to hardware (and software if free software was to be included in his computer).
Wondering about Web 2.0, it seems to me that a shift from infrastructure to content and services is taking place. In other words, if some things that were done by infrastructure (i.e. filing photos needed a hard drive and a software to organize them) are now done by a web service (i.e. Flickr), some of the problems that Nicholas Negroponte is now facing will be shifted to the content and services digital divide class.
And this is a good or a bad thing?
It is good, case one, as it looks like user hardware and software are less demanding on power and features, and we’ll go back to simple clients that just have to “show” what happens on the server side.
It is bad, case two, if we have not solved a correct access to these content and services for people on the wrong side of the digital divide because of language issues (digital divide class 3), because of digital illiteracy (digital divide class 2) or just because of censorship (digital divide class 4).
Case one will make Negroponte’s life (and all others) much easier.
Case two will make Negroponte’s effort a complete waste of time.
Annan presents prototype $100 laptop at World Summit on Information Society.
[Read chez John]
If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:
Peña-López, I. (2005) “Negroponte and the Web 2.0 or the Four Classes of the Digital Divide” In ICTlogy,
#26, November 2005. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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