[Air-l] One Laptop Per Child

Jocelyn Williams jwilliams at unitec.ac.nz
Tue Jun 6 20:34:21 PDT 2006

I'm commenting on the questions posed by Ellis Godard:

Jocelyn Williams
Senior Lecturer, Communication
Programme Director, Bachelor of International Communication
School of Communication
Unitec New Zealand 
Private Bag 92025
Ph + 64 (09) 815 4321 ex 8829
Fax + 64 (09) 815 4330

>>> ellis.godard at csun.edu 07/06/2006 10:49:55 >>>

How does diffusing technology across a divide which already exists, enhance
rather than diminish it? How does giving them computers inhibit their
"technological progress", or have any deliterious effect on their
technological standards?

As argued in "Knowledge Gap Hypothesis" literature, the outcome of providing information (or in the case of the Digital Divide, information technologies) to a social system tends to be, ironically, to exacerbate the existing gap (divide) because of the inherent ability of the more (technologically) literate or educated to take up the information and the advantages and broader worldview that goes along with it. I have suggested "the Computer Clubhouse concept (Resnick, Rusk & Cooke, 1998) articulates the need for "technological fluency * not only knowing how to use technological tools, but also knowing how to construct things of significance with those tools" (p. 2)" **  is one tactic in responding strategically to the issue that merely providing the PCs is no solution to the digital divide at all.

The more critical point implied by Fuchs is "global divide in technological progress and standards 
> will emerge that separates advanced Western technology users 
> from users of less-advanced technologies in the Third World" - it's not so much that $100 laptops are not doing anything to address the digital divide, but that the concept may generate a new dimension of disadvantage relative to advantage - as long as those without computers are given first world castoffs, for those with the less advanced technologies there will always be a moving target before them, ever out of reach.  This is a slightly reframed, shifting gap.

Godard again:

The implication that inequality and stratification are necessarily wrong,
much less demonstrably eliminatable, is very very close to absurd.

I don't suppose anyone is arguing that inequality is "eliminatable" necessarily, but the thing is that inequalities related to differential ICT access tend to go along with a whole raft of other problems, often expensive ones, and laptop schemes etc are at least attempting to provide tools for communities with which they may seek a measure of self-determination.

Jocelyn Williams

** http://ci-journal.net/viewarticle.php?id=77&layout=html 

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