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The Internet

Poor In Latin America Embrace Net's Promise 103

This fairly long story in The Washington Post tells how Internet access in Latin America is spreading more rapidly than anywhere else in the world, and not just among the well-to-do. According to the article, rural villagers and urban shantytown dwellers are connecting with the rest of the world, and this is giving some of them hopes and expectations they never had before. Is it possible that near-universal Internet access might do more in the long run than plumbing and other infrastructure improvements to help raise people in developing nations out of poverty?
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Poor in Latin America Embrace Net's Promise

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  • Is it possible that near-universal Internet access might do more in the long run than plumbing and other infrastructure improvements to help raise people in developing nations out of poverty?
    Not to snap a Slashdot editor out of his geek fantasies (*cough*Katz*cough*) but this is about as far as a Hi-I-was-raised-in-a-comfortable-suburban-setting type of ignorance can go. Yes, Roblimo, some people in the world actually have to wonder where their next meal is coming from. Some people have to actually wonder if they'll be alive tomorrow, if they live in places like Sudan, Zimbabwe or Chechnya.

    Electricity, sanitation, water, food, and medical care are all necessities that we in the United States and the rest of the first world take for granted every single day that other not so fortunate nations do not have ready access to. I have yet to hear one subsistence farmer complain about his inability to gain wondrous knowledge from Internet sites such as Slashdot. I do hear about a lack of sanitary water to drink, much less to bathe, or food shortages due to corruption and infrastructural inefficiences causing famine. My parents grew up in 1940s Malaysia, and just thinking about the differences in our experiences makes me thank God that I was fortunate enough to be spared that.

    Before you talk about the signs and wonders of the information revolution and how it's going to change the world, take a trip downtown and volunteer at the local John 3:16 to make a difference for someone today.
  • When I was in venezuela Cybercafes were all the rage, and it was very 1997Q4-esque (just as the Internet Economy was really beginning to ramp up) there were big banners offering HTML and computing workshops, the middle class tended to own computers and sometime dialup access--a major problem was that the phone company charged per-minute for even local calls, but there were a few wireless/cell companies competing. It makes me happy to see that the problems are being moved past.

    I hope it doesn't ruin some of the really beautiful rustic scenery [griffjon.com], tho.
  • An acquaintance that spent a summer in the mountains of Guatemala told me that every little village seemed to have an internet cafe. Apparently it is heavily used to communicate by email and IM services with Norteno relatives -- who are the backbone of the economies of theese poor villages. To me this is similar to the way that cell phones are taking root in Central America -- email, IM, and cell phones are simply the most cost effective way to build out the communication infrastructure in some third world communities.

    Will access to the net change the economies of these communities? I would not be to breathless about that. Maybe, but it will take time. And it will depend on a lot of problematic contributing factors such as political stability, freedom, and yes, basic resources like food and water. Web access may help spur education and help resourceful individuals. But it is no panacea. More like the party line phone that was once ubiquitous in our rural (and poor) communities many decades ago. Part of the infrastructure. Something that binds communities together and to the outside world. Good to have. But not a salvation.

  • by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Sunday July 09, 2000 @09:26AM (#947624) Journal
    Perhaps it is time for someone with first hand experience with computers in Latin America to make a statement.

    My fiance has family in El Salvador. They are part of the middle class there, something that had been very small in prior years, but is growing rapidly now that the US and USSR have stop paying people to kill each other in El Salvador.

    One of her cousins works at Xerox in San Salvador, selling copiers, printers, faxes, all the equipment you need to run a modern business. Another cousin in El Salvador works for Teleglobe, and sells telecom and Internet. Soon there will be fiber optic running into El Salvador to replace the aging satellite Net infrastructure.

    My fiance's mother uses Internet email to communicate with her family in El Salvador. It is much cheaper than voice telecom costs (which can be as high as $1/minute).

    Driving down the streets of San Salvador, you can see roadside advertisements for various computer training classes.

    And this is important, during the civil war, many poor people left the fields because of the danger, and went to the capital (San Salvador) to find jobs. At the time, the government was concerned with the war, and there were all kinds of nutty restrictions on industry. My fiance's mothers cousin who runs a plastic bag factory couldn't sell bags outside of El Salvador.

    Now that the war is over, industry of all kinds are flourishing in El Salvador. Trade barriers set up by the government are coming down, and trade barriers erected by the US against El Salvador are (slowly) coming down as well.

    Life expectancy at birth in 1999 was 70 years in El Salvador, and literacy is up to 71.5%. There is a long way to go there, but the Internet can help in many ways, ranging from education (such as Net connectivity at the Universidad de El Salvador) to helping industry. Even the government [casapres.gob.sv] is using it.

    Privatization of the state controlled telecom company will also accelerate the improvement of El Salvador's telecom infrastructure that was badly damaged during the civil war.
  • i'm a long time computer geek. i moved down here to chile to live on a beach, write [mindpixel.com], paint [mindpixel.com] and invent artificial consciousness [mindpixel.com].

    i have started a project to put a free and very sturdy web kiosk in a small fishing village up the cost from the city of antofagasta where i live.

    i think that it will make a big difference for the villagers to join the world community; to be able to sell their products as directly as possible and cut out as many middle men as possible

    if anyone is interested in this project, you can come down to south america (on your own coin) and stay will me for a month or two while we build and test a prototype. just let me know.

  • One of the most interesting discussions of this phenomenon in my experience came when I was trying to perusade a local prog intellectual bookstore/community org. to have a website. While I'd been on the 'net since 1992 or thereabouts, and thought a web site (that I'd do free) was a natural for such an enterprise, the owner saw 'net participation as bending over to the Man. I replied that the 'net was the voice of the voiceless, the recourse for those who'd otherwise be shut out by Time/Life/Warner, Rupert Murdoch, & Co...that there were any number of progressive organizations, local groups, and even Third Worlders that were testing the waters and finding the 'net a godsend. (Bhutan, which is rumored to come online--real soon now--with cheap solar-powered NC's, came to mind....)

    "So, there're aborigines in Australia who whip out laptops?" (Like, right....)

    "Dunno about Australia. But they do talk about tribal villages in the Amazon who regularly check the prices their handicrafts fetch in the galleries of New York."

    Total incredulity."They care?"

    "And they aren't at all pleased by what they've seen...so far. They're really pissed at all the tourist gringoes who've ripped them off, getting artifacts that represent weeks of good work for almost free."

    Strange guilty look....


    Point is, one of the things that globalization, including 'net access, is going to do, what it is doing, is destroying much of the romantic notions that the urban progressive intellgensia (of which New Haven has a large community) has had about the rest of the world. Their world is split into three: themselves, a thick shell around them of hostile know-nothings (and their controllers), and a huge world of female/ Third World/ of color/ poor/ lesbian/ non-Christian/ etc. "authentic" peoples, who despite not having access to the academic journals detailing the latest fads in intellectual discourse, think exactly like themselves.

    Back in the 1930's and '40's, there was a romantic notion that America's working poor were somehow all unconscious Marxists: that, given half a chance, they'd renounce nationalist fervor in favor of the "Internationale", and superstitious Judeo-Christianity for the spiritual consolations of the progress of history. These diamonds in the rough would have much rather had an functionally spare apartment in a housing project rather than a baroque Victorian castle, simple, clean, clothes rather than ruffly froufrou, and good fellowship rather than material ambitions -- it simply stands to reason that they'd be vegetarians by choice, and appreciate Beethoven. Given a good income, it was argued, a sharecropper would prefer to live like a professor in an Eastern university over the life of a tycoon.

    This myth was shattered, not by McCarthy's Red-baiting, but by historical events. Even without a Marxist revolution, the American working class rose in income and real wealth enormously over the 50's and 60's....and what did they buy? Televisions with which to watch, not Shakespeare, but Milton Berle. Tract houses with lawn flamingoes. Gaudy cars from which milady emerged clad, not in elegant homespun, but in loud polyester. Suddenly, the Enemy wasn't the fat guy in the top hat, but Archie Bunker, who wanted no truck with communism, or even communitarianism: he looked out for No. 1. Blacks were even worse: the granddaughters of Southern poverty proudly bedecked themselves with gold chains, designer logos, and platform shoes, and heaped scorn on the affluent whites who were now wearing sneakers, T-shirts, and jeans. It's hard to maintain that the rural poor of Middle America value musical integrity above all else in the face of Dolly Parton. Most of these people above didn't care about communism...they didn't even feel terribly upset by Vietnam!

    Since then, this romantic image has become more and more removed from reality as it focuses on more and more inaccessible people, who have progressively come forward to debunk it: Eastern Asians (the same who gave you MSG and Pokemon, perhaps?), Hindus and Moslems (like the clerk at the 24 store?), Native Americans (who operate casinos like Mohegan Sun?), and so forth. About the last refuge they have are the native healers like the (safely dead) historical witches of the Celtic fringe (who --despite being unable to prevent the deforestation of highland Scotland, losing one out of three children at birth, and coming from a society that practised slave-taking and serfdom before Christianity-- were ob/gyn geniuses and identical in ideology to affluent American ecofeminist deconstructionists), and the sainted tribes of the Amazon, whose mastery of lifegiving common- but- neglected- by- the- blinkered- FDA herbs (that cure everything from the common cold to cancer) is equalled only by their supreme indifference to material wealth and scorn of technology.

    Hang on, folks, we're in for a very bumpy ride.

  • As many of you may know, in Mexico we had elections last week. Many say that they were the first clean elections ever. The 71-year old regime was defeated - 71 years the same party ruled the country, not anymore...

    Anyway, among the loser official candidate's strategies for advertising his candidature was to say that he would teach English and computers to every kid in urban and rural areas... Well, that was among his most foolish affirmations. Cartoonists all over the country started making jokes on him - "Finally we will be able to talk with the indigenous people who still don't know any Spanish - we will talk in English!", a little kid asking the candidate: "Mr. Candidate, Mr. Candidate! Can we have laptops on my village? We still do not have electricity!"...

    The fact is, even though Mexico is among the most developed countries in Latin America, the rural areas completely lack the infrastructure needed to use computers... Let alone Internet access. There are still many small and medium sized cities that do not have a local ISP. How dare they say that our rural areas have any better luck? In Latin America, the rural areas have always been unimportant to the government.
  • I'm a computer geek too, here in Argentina we have internet since 94 or 93 Telintar is the only company in our country that can supply control internet access, but there in argentina there's a like 500 providers that supply internet connection but all that connections are controled and monopolized by telintar... i hate this cause... i never use a t1 or a t3 connetion cause telintar have a contract and i think that this year the monopoly of telintar ends. just think about this, we never see a t1 connection running here in argentina, the most fastest connection here is the 2 mb wide band of telintar and a 512k point to point. i want that all company come to argentina to install phone lines and more faster communication centers... so my company can setup a t1 and browse the net more quicly. bye.
  • It's not a worthless paper, and my comment was directed more against the institutions themselves rather than the idea of IT improving a developing country's sort. My main issue with optimistic predictions about any given sector of the economy or policy reversing the poverty and general desolation (recently came back from a trip to Murmansk, in northern Russia, what a disaster) of a country's population is that historically, we have seen nothing like the benefits described in theoretical economics. Factors of a psychological, social and historical nature always seem to interfere with the best developed plan without ever being taken into account by supposedly well-informed, well-prepared and certainly well-paid consultants, bankers and government policy wonks.

    I can see the potential benefits of increased access to information provided by a deeper penetration of affordable communications in developing countries' societies&nbsp- information is power, after all, at least in understanding the events shaping one's life. However, I am extremely wary about touting any one field, be it IT or agribusiness, as a driving force behind deep-seated reform at all levels of society as long as the forces controlling the development of the field are concentrated in the remote boardrooms of corporations whose interests are radically opposed to those of the subjects in their employ.

    If the tools "they" give you have been designed only to maximize "their" profit, can you really use them to construct a better environment for anybody but "them"? When Microsoft (or Apple, or HP, or whoever) gives your school a million-dollar computer lab and stipulates that no competitors' products are to be installed on the shiny new machines, is the end result ultimately beneficial or harmful?
    --
    Violence is necessary, it is as American as cherry pie.
    H. Rap Brown

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Some people criticize these attempts at providing Internet access to the masses in 3rd world countries, arguing that other goods like education, food, and medicine are more important. Although that's true, I have the impression those who have expressed those views in this forum either:

    1. Have never been in Latin America, or
    2. Use "benign" stereotypes to draw their conclusions, or
    3. Have had experience or observed what underdevelopment is like someplace, and based on that, make generalizations about 3rd world countries as a whole.

    First and foremost, no pun intended, there are different "levels" of underdevelopment. One cannot compare the average experience in Mexico, Uruguay, or South Africa, with Ghana or Bangladesh. What I'm saying here is not to say who's better and who's worse. Look at it from the point of view of practicality; different levels of underdevelopment will dictate what corrective measures are inmediately applicable or not.

    Also, there are places where the most fundamental infrastructures are missing and nearly impossible to introduce; however, many of those situations are not due to extreme poverty. For example, in Northern Nicaragua, where I came from, it's nearly impossible to put electric and telephone cables. However, even the poorest farmer in those regions need to communicate with the outside in order to know how and when and how much of their crops (grains and coffee for the most part) need to be moved to more accessible areas for shipping, as well as to know if an incoming natural disarter like a hurricane is going to take place.

    BellSouth, I believe, is doing some work down there to provide cellulars at a low cost to farmers, even the poorest ones, as well as other communication technologies. Bio-gas powered devices are being researched by every major university in Latin America, which combined with wireless internet access will make life easier to those living in remote areas. Granted, they'll need faster access to medical and educational facilities, and refrigerators, but at least they'll have a better medium of communication for their farming issues and businesses. This is not theory; it's a tangible example of how techonology is helping those too poor to live away from their crops high in the mountains.

    And, as somebody said in /. B4, there are many levels of underdevelopment; most Latin American countries have gross family incomes 5-7 times better than in Africa and Asia, and many (not all) among the poor masses in Latin America fair better than other, most unfortunate people in other places. Therefore, not just internet access, but other "superfluous-looking" technologies have a more inmediate impact and applicability in Latin America. The average literacy % in Latin America is 80%, with the unfortunate exceptions of Haiti and Guatemala, which are below 50%. It is all too common to see college professionals forced to work as taxi drivers or garbage collectors because there are no openings! I was an accountant in Honduras, and I had to work making saddles. I knew way too many elementary teachers working as bartenders because there were no openings. One of my best friends in Honduras was also an accountant, yet he had to walk barefeet. We have an "excess" of educated, skilled people with respect to what the economy can absorb. It's only in the most remote areas that you will find low literacy, and pervasive lack of goods. Therefore, I don't see how mass Internet access will be irrelevant or inapropriate.

    My only hope is that someday, the standard of living improves everywhere for everybody.

    Peace,

    Luis Espinal.
    http://www.cs.fiu.edu/~lespin03
  • "Providing net cafes may help communities far more than, for example, providing electricity to every home."

    I think this is absurd. Of course, you said "may help," so its ok. :)

    But seriously, I think access to wonderful modern marvels such as A/C, refrigeration, indoor lighting might be a little more useful to a village in Ecuador than a Microsoft/Starbucks joint. If you want access to education, having the ability to read after the sun goes down is a big plus.

    The point, imho, is that simple basic infrastructure like electricity & plumbing are a tad higher in priority than being able to surf web.
  • "Providing net cafes may help communities far more than, for example, providing electricity to every home. It is only when people have some access to education and information that they can hope to actually improve their situations."

    While this may be slightly offtopic, it seems foolish to assume that Africa, one of the worlds most impoverished locations, would benefit from the introduction of internet cafes instead of basic necessities. Africa has been particularly devastated by the HIV virus. For an overview (yes, it's probably biased and not a perfect source) you can see the Seattle Post-Intelligencer [nwsource.com]. Access to information will probably not aid the African problem.

    "What you have not considered is the reason why Sudan or Chechnya (your examples) are impoverished. In most cases, poverty has little to do with a lack of resources and much more to do with politics."

    This is entirely on target. Simply put, nobody wants to deal with Africa. The UN has made some minor steps, but very little action. Meanwhile, the continent is plagued with wars, rebellions, diseases, etc. After plundering Africa in the early 1900's most of the major nations seem to have washed their hands of it. Before Internet access will have any benefit, the political status of Africa needs to be changed.
  • I live in Peru.

    There a quite a few reasons that poverty is such
    a problem here. Here are some of the biggies.

    Number 1: Upwards of 90 percent of the population are almost completely native. As you probably know, the nations that colonized South America were not very nice to the natives. After centuries of oppresion and deprivation of opportunity, a lot of people have a very narrow mindset as to their potential. "Why should I try to do something in a better way when it won't make any difference?" is a common (in many cases, not concious) attitude. So many people are just not motivated to do anything different than what they already know.

    Number 2: The government is corrupt and self serving. For example, Arequipa, the city where I live, is in the midst of a slight economic recession because the government, in an effort
    to draw more people to the capital (which equals more money for them) raised the taxes for businesses here considerably and lowered them in Lima. Now it's harder for a business to turn a profit. There are many similar examples. Look it up on the web. You'll find quite a bit of info. (Which is not EVER on TV here)

    The problem with some of the comments so far is that they assume that until everyone has the basic physical needs (food, shelter, health care) that technology (and the access to it) is not going to do any real good for Jose Sixpack. That's parially right. But, I have news for yah. That ain't gonna happen anyway the way things are going. Not everyone is going to benefit from it right away.

    However, some people will. And are. And those people that are using the knowledge and information available because of the internet are becoming aware of ways to do things differently. They're having new doors opened in their minds. Which is where the changes will actually start.

    Also, there are internet cafes all over the place.
    I mean ALL over the place here. Although usually withouth the coffee ;-) Because of the availability,
    lots of people are using it, albeit mainly for email. But that's important because it's introducing the technology, even if it isn't being fully used yet.

    I think Internet access is a win-win situation here. Note: this does not mean that other efforts to improve the standard of living need to be discarded. It's a mistake to think that all effort should be put into one area or to think that two methods are mutually exclusive. Believe me, we need all the help we can get.

    There have to be more Slashdotters in South America out there.... their opinions will be the most constructive. So, if you're out there, say something!!!

  • And by "low income" I mean a village of subsistance farmers.

    We tend to see a lot of starving peasants on TV, because the only time that peasants become interesting to TV reporters is when they are starving or cutting down rain forests. But in fact only a tiny proportion of peasants around the world are starving at any given time.

    What keeps them as peasants though, and what will ensure that sooner or later Famine will come riding through on his horse, is ignorance. Ignorance of medical care, national and global politics, markets, effective horticulture. Its difficult for us information-rich to imagine just what a limitation it is. Its difficult for them to imagine as well, because frequently they don't know either.

    But on the other hand, there have been any number of schemes which parachute some high tech into the middle of a mud hut village. The Aid Workers arrive in their Land Rovers, drop off the kit, take a few pictures and leave. Six months later the kit breaks down and nobody knows what to do about it. Traditionally this has been done with water pumps. In the future it could just as easily be computers.

    On the other hand, the image of a bright teenager cobbling together a village computer out of discarded bits has a lot more to recommend it. That, ironically, is a lot more sustainable and a lot cheaper. But its also too random. Somewhere in between must lie a rational policy which gets computers and the necessary educational and support infrastructure into place.

    One day there will be an African Reneissance. I just hope I live to see it.

    Paul.

  • As a Brazilian, I would like to say that:

    -For rural areas and poor neighbourhoods the Internet is a cheap and great way to help on education and selling their goods.
    -Remember, well-done Americans out there, the first thing you lose on poverty is self-conscience, and the second is self-esteem. The Net is an interesting way to help people recover them.
    -Some people will laugh at me. But the 486 is still a decent platform for basic Net browsing and e-mail. You can find a 486/8MB with Windows 3.11 at USD150-200. Throw a, say, 28800 or 33600 modem (fortunately Win-crap-modems are not popular at these speeds) at USD20-30, an Arachne web browser and... Basic Net browsing and speed!
    -OK... do you want a better computer? Go to Salvador, Bahia, in the northeast of Brazil. It's a beautiful, big city with a immense poor population. And a company called Microtec had set up a financing system so people in shanty towns and poor neighbourhoods can buy their very own computer. Very interesting.
    -I don't know in other countries, but in Brazil free Net ISPs have taken the market by storm. Even some banks (and a lot of poor people receive their salaries on bank accounts) are offering free Net access.
  • When 75% of the world's population still doesn't know where their next meal is coming from, 'net access should be the least of ones concerns.
  • by afc ( 12569 )

    Yes, but you're missing the point.

    Making money in IT is based on people buying stuff (the various .com's on the internet), or serving as part of the infrastructure of business/industry.

    You are missing the point too. Making money in the net is more about selling a service (or advertising services) than about selling stuff (loosely speaking). Now the transition from an industrial economy to a service economy is what we've been witnessing throughout the Western world world, and is a highly desirable one for Third World countries even if they do not have a first-class industrial economy to begin with (which is not the case in most countries in LA: the industry may suck, but it is the basis of the economy.

    The assumption that all developing countries have an agrarian based economy is one of the most widespread and silly misconceptions you see when slashdotter pontificate about this subject.

  • Nah, be a man (oops, be a person), and admit you were aiming for first post (which, incidentally you didn't get) and tried to disguise it with humor just so it would not be obvious.
  • I don't think online instruction can replace the real thing

    I maybe wrong but I think that in the Amazon it's usual to recieve education via radio (two-way?). Of course, the Internet would be hard to bring there but it would be a big improvement.
    __
  • "Providing net cafes may help communities far more than, for example, providing electricity to every home."

    I think this is absurd. Of course, you said "may help," so its ok. :)

    I'm not the poster you replied to, but I'll take on that challenge: take the Old City district in Salvador, Brazil, for instance, an area already bustling with tourist activity; set up a few cybercafés so that said tourists can email their folks back home and hang around and exchange experiences with other tourists; net result: more tourists are attracted to the place, which in turn gets Maria a better income by selling local cuisine specialties to tourists; which in turn gets her son, José, a better education because he can now attend school and not be forced into menial jobs that would compromise his school attendance; this will, in the future, enhance his chances of landing a well-paid job (or even better, starting an enterprise of his own) improving his socio-economic conditions and those of his relatives.

    Q.E.D

  • Gee, if you had to clarify that how do you picture the average /. reader in your scenario?
  • If people want to immigrate to a country bad enough they should care enough to speak that country's native tongue.

    Like the Pilgrim fathers did.
    __
  • May I redirect the Slashdot trolls to the Portuguese cousin of Slashdot and Barrapunto, Gildot [gildot.org].
    __
  • Some problems with your post:

    I live in Peru.

    I am always intrigued when I see this line coming from non-US posters (and I've seen it from Nowegians, Swedish etc). Do you live in Peru or are you a Peruvian?

    Number 1: Upwards of 90 percent of the population are almost completely native. As you probably know, the nations that colonized South America were not very nice to the natives.

    Now, I realize it wasn't probably your intention to say so, but I don't see how the population being majoritarily native is a problem. Furthermore, I don't think the Spanish were as bad as, say the English in North America, seing as most of South American are to this day of native ancestry.

    There have to be more Slashdotters in South America out there.... their opinions will be the most constructive. So, if you're out there, say something!!!

    Somthing :-)!
  • Touche ;)

    I'm not motivated to help Computerbank because of an operating system. Computerbank excites me because I hope that people in unfortunate circumstances and the GNU/Linux community may be able to help each other.

    We can help them get an education or a job. Perhaps, just perhaps, some of them will end up being active participants in the GNU/Linux world.

    I have spent a lot of time trying to help people in other ways (such as being involved in politics - shudder), and I can assure you that drawing on the support of a community like ours makes things a lot easier.

    P.S. apologies to anyone who regards this as offtopic. I would have replied by email, were it not an AC who made this comment. Whoever you are, if you want to continue discussing this, please feel free to mail me.

  • The current capitalism system proves to enlarge this gap. It'll be interesting to know if the internet itself will be enough to reduce it, at least to tolerable levels.

    Interesting enough, in the G8 countries, it'll probably be harder for the poorer to get internet access - and the world knows that the one who won't master the internet is the one that will be left out of this world. The victims may well be in these countries, if they are not the countries themselves.

  • I gave this group some money once in exchange for some nice mailing labels. I was skeptical though, I didn't know the ratio was that good.
  • You have a problem with cynicism do you ? Of course they may be better off in the long term, but that doesn't mean that they won't be exploited in the short term. Can you say 'Nike' and 'Third World Production'?

  • People still need food over internet access.

    They could use the internet to order food from WebVan. :)

  • Let me see.. Do I want plumbing or the internet.

    On one hand.. YOu have to go outside and take a crap in a hole in the ground. But ahh.. I can still read /.... OF COURSE the internet is better. :-)

  • Is certainly behind productivity. And an e-gold [e-gold.com] account is free to set up. (I know, I know. Coming soon: pages in espanol).

    Gold has had a long and sordid history in man's exploitation of man (see slavery) so the irony of this is especially fun for folks who know a bit of history. Again my offer to click a bit of e-gold to anyone who wants to try it still stands (and again, probably very few of you will take me up on it. Oh well).

    Moderate this down, see if I care.
    JMR
  • Perhaps the greatest asset the internet brings, not just to so called Third World countries, but to us all, is a common forum in which we may, from great distances and over great financial and class chasms, simply talk amongst ourselves. How long does anyone think the Cold War would have lasted had the average Soviet citizen had the opportunity to speak with the average American? We would have found out, contrary to all the propaganda, that were just alike.
    The internet gives us a global neighborhood forum which no President or King or Dictator can rule; the ideas here run the gamut from idiotic to genus and everything between, but they are *ours*.
  • "If a kid can't read, he can't use the Internet."

    But if a kid can read a little, the net can help them learn more. Not through "remote education", or whatever, but because people want to read what's out there. I know there are plenty of people who learned basic english in school, and learned more by hanging out on the net.

    "If a kid can't do better than rudimentary math, she can't program."

    Not really... I learned sines and cosine through programming an Asteroids game in QBASIC. I've also learned about Voronoi diagrams and other stuff through programming. Think of all those 7-year-olds learning LOGO.

    So, the net can help these countries.


    -Dave Turner.
  • It's all well and good thinking that the net will cause some dramatic sea-change in the fortunes of lesser-developed nations, but surely what it all comes down to is how to disseminate information for learning. An example is India, which has achieved much via a mixture of old and new technologies. They have acheived a revolution in education via satellite radio broadcasting. This has enabled distance-led teaching on a huge range of subjects, from basic education to health issues such as HIV. Of course, India also happens to have a huge number of very highly educated and talented people; it's just that it has a huge economic imbalance. The net certainly is the ultimate expression of free thought (this could go really off-topic) and so it is the superior tool for sharing information. However, it arguably won't provide the best return for the necessary investment. These nations will benefit more from democracy where it currently is not prevalent, clean water, sanitation and food supply. The world has survived thus far without help from Messrs Grove, Gates, Jobs and Torvalds. Where does this lead? Another 4 billion PCs consuming vast amounts of energy, requiring more fossil fuel combustion - with the subsequent global warming effects. Maybe ignorance is bliss... an no-one said life was fair.
  • These people in Latin America could benifit more from a change in American foreign policy than internet access. Proper food, clothing, and shelter are better priorities.

  • Remember that all developed/undeveloped counties are not at the same level of development/undevelopment... Everyone seems to be taking pitty in the poor undeveloped southamerican countries where "the phone company charged per-minute for even local calls"... Well let me tell you that in our beloved and overlydeveloped Sweden they are still charging per minute on on local, distance and dialup acces.... How's that for a developed country...

    Thank you.
    //Frisco
    --

  • If a kid can't read, he can't use the Internet.
    Although it would be quite difficult to use the internet with no ability to read, using it would help improve upon a basic reading ability. I have a south american friend who learned english by watching tv and listening to American music. Is it so difficult to comprehend that resources need to come before learning rather that learning before resources?
    If a kid can't do better than rudimentary math, she can't program.
    What desire is there to learn math if you can't see a use for it? If you have the resources to write a program, yet don't have the knowledge, your desire to create will lead you to learn the necessary skills.
  • the last 2 years have been (percentage wise) the largest growth in our economy, and while you may not see it, the computer industry growth had an effect on all types of economy.
  • Why should anybody try to speak intelligently to you, when you are so obviously full of both conceit and shit?

    Because you are a gutless hypocrite - I might have some respect for you if you showed some kind of reasonable intelligence, but you attack me for something not related to the discussion at hand -- in doing so, you make a gross misinterpretation about me and my interests anyway -- and you don't even have the balls to come out from beyond your AC veil. We could keep going for hours, and you would keep losing. Have a nice life.

  • AMEN
  • And instead of posting as an AC, you can post as a Pendejo Sin Nombre.

    It should be noted, for non-Spanish speakers, that Pendejo Sin Nombre, translates roughly as Nameless Asshole. I think Slashdot would profit a great deal from a similar terminology.
  • [snip]Making money in the net is more about selling a service (or advertising services) than about selling stuff (loosely speaking). Now the transition from an industrial economy to a service economy is what we've been witnessing throughout the Western world world, and is a highly desirable one for Third World countries...[snip]

    What kind of services could a Third-World country have to offer (to another country ... first world countries just take what they want from the third world ... it's wrong, but we get everything we want/need out of them already)? (I ask this queston honestly) Certainly they couldn't provide services to their own citizens (except for the élite few that live at the top of their respective economies), as they certainly could not afford them (the necessities of life take precidence).

    If I'm wrong, let me know...

    The assumption that all developing countries have an agrarian based economy is one of the most widespread and silly misconceptions you see when slashdotter pontificate about this subject.

    I realize that agriculture is not the sole source of income in the poorer countries of the world. I simply contend that there is a natural progression for an economy. Trying to skip the development of a solid industrial sector is silly.

    I guess that I'm basically saying that IT and the internet "service sector" is over-rated (don't take offense people, its important, but not the solution to the world's problems). Look at what has been happening lately. Over-valued dotcoms have been sliding in value, as people are finally realizing that profit-less, product-less companies are not worth investing in. Like I said in my previous comment, internet access can help, but economy infrastructure is more important. Throwing internet access into the mix and hoping that the infrastructure will take care of itself will not work.

    Net access is only a small part of the solution.

  • Yes, but you're missing the point.

    Making money in IT is based on people buying stuff (the various .com's on the internet), or serving as part of the infrastructure of business/industry.

    The West (Europe, North America, Japan, etc.) was ready for the "internet revolution". It had a strong industrial base, and a stable middle-class that could fuel the "new economy" (I hate buzzwords).

    Honestly, do you think that a country that doesn't really have an economy could really get an economic boost from internet access (at least not directly)?

    Don't get me wrong, however. 'Net access is a Good Thing(tm). It serves as a medium for enlightenment, and a source of knowledge. Hopefully, the citizens of these countries would learn something and put it to use...

    But its not a cut-and-dried solution. There are no guarantees.

    Plus, you never know what those farmers may do with easy access to hard-core porn.... :)

  • I honestly was not aiming for the first post, I read the article and I saw those other 2 before. Slashdot is pretty slow on sunday. I don't think any of my other posts are anywhere near 1st or trying to get there. I'll admit the post was pretty stupid and I should learn to think more before I post. I have no idea why anyone found it insightful. It was modded up once, insightful, down, offtopic, and then up insightful.
  • by afc ( 12569 )

    What kind of services could a Third-World country have to offer (to another country ... first world countries just take what they want from the third world ... it's wrong, but we get everything we want/need out of them already)?

    There are you go again making the wrong assumptions. Who says the services have to be provided to another country? Clearly, the point of a service-based economy is making more money circulate internally, thus helping the economy grow as a whole.

    Granted, a good netting some dollars from exports is good, but most Third World countries already do thatv (some with industrialized goods, some with agricultural produce). Doesn't go very far towards improving the living conditions for the majority, though.

    I realize that agriculture is not the sole source of income in the poorer countries of the world. I simply contend that there is a natural progression for an economy. Trying to skip the development of a solid industrial sector is silly.

    Once again, your contention is wrong. What is natural progress in history? Which country shows them the correct path to follow? The US? Switzerland? Japan?
    Anyways, you're also wrong in assuming that the industrial infrastructure is not in place. Most countries in Latin America, and most in Southern Asia have a fairly industrialized economy. What they don't have, in opposition to Western Europe, North America and Japan is a sizeable middle class, which is able to provide three fundamental things: tax money to fund a rational social infrastructure; savings to fuel investment; and third the demand for services that will grow the economy. Anything that brings about more of the latter is a worthy goal, IMHO.

  • People still need food over internet access. Unless they're hoping to order some free food with venture capital powered net coupons and discounts.
  • > internet access can establish a basis for a thriving economy (i mean, look what it did for our stock market)

    This brings up an interesting point, whose economy is more crazy and irrational, a poor third-world country's, or a rich country like the USA where the economy is driven by 2 year old company's who are losing billions of dollars. Forget the Bay of Pigs, we're giving Latin America the invasion of the daytraders!

    Be very very afraid.

  • What happened to the previous two, BTW? Are they standard AC crap and have been modded into oblivion?

    Anyways, my guess as to what happened to your post moderation is that, even though you intended it to be a humorous, commonplace inanity, it found echo in the cluelessness of some moderators. Slashdot is such an amazing place!

  • not only for latin america, but other countries with sterotypes pinned on them like poverty. with all these high speed access things coming out and new sites and the such, it is easy for forget that there are people out there that dont have the first clue about the internet, and much like things like books, it is a resource that should be readily avalible to all.
  • Let's face it, the net is and always will be about empowerment. It doesn't matter if the person using it is a poor latin american farmer or a poor inner-city kid. Once people discover the scope of information on the net and realize that they can educate themselves in a way that they once thought was only possible for the elite classes, thier minds and spirits are transformed, and thier life and circumstances have, for the first time, a possibilty to follow suit. Anybody saying otherwise is just a patronizing elitist. Who are we to say "let's wait on giving the poor knowledge to feed themselves better until we have given them enough food"? The blessing that we geeks have from our early access to the net should always be balanced with with a sense of responsibilty to allow others that same opportunity for a paradigm shift or our priviledge isn't worth the keyboard we type on. "If I give a man food, they call me a saint, if I ask 'why doesn't he have food?', they call me a communist." - Archbiship Romero (I believe). This is my first post...give me some karma points!
  • true, but internet access can establish a basis for a thriving economy (i mean, look what it did for our stock market) and in the end, there will be food for all. im not at all disagreeing, however, the fact that food should be provided as well, but in the long run, this will be most beneficial.
  • Oh please. STFU with your pseudo-intelligent racist doubletalk. Brain-size. Bullshit.
  • by Parsec ( 1702 )
    Or just opening up new markets for advertising and consumption.
  • I remember the subjects were '1st?' and '2nd?', probably the same person, yep A C, but not as offensive like usual. I think they just said 'Hmm' or something, no ascii graphics of beer mugs. I suppose part of the reason I did post was, I wanted to see a relavent post up there. I read the article and didn't have a whole lot important to say. My posts are never anything amazing, but they're usually not this inane. Better to say nothing than to sound like an idiot.
  • Sure, they can log on to their local plumbing company's web site and request a service check... ooh. Internet access is great, but I don't think they should immediately jump right into it. Basic necessities should take priority, then ease them onto the net.

    The ideas on the net will help them the most... ideas of making the best of your situation, improving yourself and your community, and exceeding your own expectations.
  • Is it possible that near-universal Internet access might do more in the long run than plumbing and other infrastructure improvements to help raise people in developing nations out of poverty?

    What is beginning to happen is much like the proliferation of books upon the invention of the printing press. People are being exposed to new ideas (except where blocked, such as "The Great Firewall of China" seen here earlier) and these are letting them see much more than they could have ever realized elsewhere.

    Granted, they still need food and the basic necessities of life, before this it was not feasible for them to learn the info they can now get. People often overlook the benefits that universal Internet access could have on our global society. This is one more reason why censorship and regulation of content has no place on the Internet.

  • by happystink ( 204158 ) on Sunday July 09, 2000 @07:25AM (#947677)
    "Is it possible that near-universal Internet access might do more in the long run than plumbing and other infrastructure improvements to help raise people in developing nations out of poverty?"

    It's definitely part of the solution, but it's not the whole thing. Access itself is great, but training people to use it is way more useful. Check out Peoplink [peoplink.org], an organization that goes to poorer countries and gives them computers and teaches them how to use them to sell their goods online (I may be missing something else they do, but that's my understanding of it). I think they're a great, great thing because although access may give them "hopes and expectations" (and I'm not arguing those things are extremely valuable), they need training and skills in order to translate those hopes into something tangible and useful.

    But again, yay internet! :)

  • by Paolo ( 87425 ) on Sunday July 09, 2000 @07:34AM (#947678) Homepage
    Just read about the founder of Tripod [tripod.com]'s benevolent venture called GeekCorps [geekcorps.org] which is deisgned to provide tech training and help to developing nations, those in South America and Africa included. Consider taking a sabbatical or doing something to try to help. Once altruism has opened up the user base, real tech companies from these areas can take hold and fuel some of the economy, Bangalore India being an example.

    Of course, part of the problem with bringing in computers into places where other things are needed much more is that computers are considered frivolous compared to the more urgent needs of clean water, healthcare, and the like. These considerations aside, the collective community of those who are blessed with large salaries and tech access should be helping in all means possible.

  • They can *still* produce garbage. They only need to produce *always* the same kind of garbage, with great accuracy.

    Both CMM and ISO9K measure quality of the *process*, not the product.
  • I think they're a great, great thing because although access may give them "hopes and expectations" (and I'm not arguing those things are extremely valuable), they need training and skills in order to translate those hopes into something tangible and useful.

    Of course, the Internet can also be used to provide training [wired.com] and skills [theplumber.com]...

  • Cool. With the explosion of the internet and technical knowledge in developing countries, a few years from now, every other company will relocate their tech support call centers down South. Ten times the English proficiency for ten percent of the salary of the burger flippers in Dallas, TX. Not a bad deal for everyone involved, if you ask me.
    --
    Violence is necessary, it is as American as cherry pie.
    H. Rap Brown
  • We'll see what it has done to our economy... a lot of this money was generated by hype, and that hype is dieing down. A lot of that hype was from the hope of America's numerous consumers starting to use the internet to buy - to buy mostly uncessary things, like TVs, Dreamcasts, the latest CD, Harry Potter novels, ginseng extract and specialty moisturizers. How many Latin Americans do we expect to buy this crap? Or do we expect them to buy groceries online? Is Priceline.com going to start making deals for that with the local vegetable shack?
  • A brilliant mind knows no boundaries. Yes, food and water and shelter are important - vital. But if the basic needs are taken care of, having a PC - especially with Linux and gcc - can open doors that few other tools could open. A carpenter could build a home with a hammer, but a bright kid with ambition and curiousity could write the next ICQ or Napster.

    Or ILOVEYOU. So it's partly the responsibility of the rest of the online community to encourage responsible growth and also show that the real money is behind productivity.

    JHK

    .penn Web designs for small businesses and very large governments. [homepage.com]

  • I will, Thank you.

  • They could use the internet to order food from WebVan. :)

    And a flush toilet from Home Depot. Which they could perch precariously above the open sewer running past the back door. And what's a little hunger and dysentry when you have access to deeply discounted airfares?

    "I will gladly pay you today, sir, and eat up

  • ... but no cigar. Putting "Or ILOVEYOU" as a sentence frament to start off a paragraph is not bad, but not quite good enough. The Jon Katz school of writing says that for making meaningless points important, a full paragraph should be devoted to them. Also, you need to victimise your subjects a little bit more. Try putting something in about how if, like 100% of all geeks who have ever lived, the people in Central America with Internet access live a life of torment and go on a shooting spree, it was the fault of random people he's heard rumours about who don't embrace the life of geeks.

    Or not.

    Keep trying though. The Jon Katz writing style is a very hard thing to get down, and I don't claim to know all the answers.
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Sunday July 09, 2000 @10:07AM (#947687) Homepage Journal
    American companies would rather pay $200,000 and get a dozen or more progammers in a third world country than $200,000 for one programmer here (Base salary plus assorted benefits etc, adds up even if you're only making $60K a year.)

    IBM, Siemans and one other company I don't recall are doing it in Timisoara, Romania alone. IBM's also got a lot of shops in India, too. Software's easy to manipulate on the Internet and gets moved around tax free, and you don't have to muck about with getting someone a hard-to-get worker's visa. My counterparts in Romania were as good as, if not better than most of the programmers I've worked with over here, they're making several times the national average salary in Romania and at least at IBM they were doing shit work that no one here wanted to touch (Like maintaining OS/2 device drivers.) It's like getting someone fresh out of college, only better.

  • i grew up in zambia far from the suburbs.

    but i too hold tremendous hope for internet to raise the quality of life for the ordinary (not rich like you and i) men and women in zambia.

    it's true that we need medicical care etc also but raised incomes from using the internet are a means to that end.

    it is true also that your local John 3:16 could probably use a hand once in a while too. but don't call a person arogant for wanting to help in the way that he knows best.

    it's not arrogance to think that what you are doing can benifit humanity. it's hope. and we could all do with a little more hope.

  • For what it's worth : IT and the internet can do a lot to improve the situation in developing countries, there's no doubt about that. But at the same time, it's rife for being used as an exploitive mass medium. Can't you just hear the multinational telecommunications companies ready to pounce on new markets, in 20 years time, perhaps the exploitive communications revolution will look like the exploitive natural resources revolution, with all its claims to be for the benefit of the locals. I am too cynical.

  • by Micah ( 278 )
    You obviously haven't been to Latin America. It's not exactly a desert there. Most people there probably eat better than you do.... or at least more nutritiously.
  • Can someone do me a favour and tell me how the 'oil and gas' companies promised to make the developing world better, and whether those promises actually came to be ? And then tell me whether the same thing can happen with the information technology revolution ? So as the multinationals go hunting for new markets in the developing world (whether that world be in developing countries or in developed countries - think about one!), what kind of long term damage is being done.

  • Ok, this is technically offtopic, but this site:

    www.barrapunto.com [barrapunto.com] offers stuff that matters in Spanish.

    It's a great way to improve your Spanish reading ability, even if you're starting with none at all. Just grab a dictionary and start building your lexicon. You'd be surprised how quickly you can achieve 80 to 90 percent comprehension.

    With the demographic changes expected in the US in the comming decades, being able to at least read Spanish is probably a good skill to pick up. And Barrapunto.com generally has a good set of stories which complement those on Slashdot. And instead of posting as an AC, you can post as a Pendejo Sin Nombre.

  • by Tiro ( 19535 ) on Sunday July 09, 2000 @10:28AM (#947693) Journal
    Good point.

    We should remember, hope is one thing, but having no realistic means to achieve your hopes ultimately leaves you... hopeless.

    The people at issue need good education, so they might be able to build a middle class, the bedrock of any functional society.

    There won't be loads of IT jobs opening up in rural Peru anytime soon. A good way for them to use the internet is to learn a discipline.

  • ...I am hearing the same crap over and over. Too many of y'all are thinking that without a perfect infrastructure (like you have at home, or in your office, as I do) and without perfect, up to the minute hardware, or even legacy hardware that ain't too legacy -- without, in short, being First Worlders -- Third Worlders will never have, or never need, or never use, or never care about the Internet. Have none of you naysayers ever heard of making do? Most people poorer than the average Slashdotter are perfectly readywillingandable to use old shitty hardware running old shitty software on old shitty telephone connections --- because they know that the informational and communicative potential of the Internet is worth dealing with inconveniences. What's more, it's really weird and unsettling to see that the richest, best-connected and most Internet-savvy microslice of humanity, at this stage of the Internet's development, continues to see the Internet as a tool suitable only for (and desirable only to)... [wait for it]... themselves. This is, folks, what they used to think about radio and television ... something the Third and Fourth Worlds have been using and actively, successfully exploiting (even when they have to, again, MAKE DO) for many decades now. Sigh.... they're just as good as we are, guys...
  • I grew up in a third world nation, Zambia. And after college I would like to return and teach computer science while supporting myself programming over the internet.

    So I am always interesting in articles about how computers and the internet are doing in poorer countries.

    Zambia is a different situation than South America because the population is less dense. And because Zambia has more poverty. So needless to say AOL probably isn't going to be planning to come to Zambia anytime soon.

    However this is still a very exciting time for me because of all the hopefull things happening in the Zambian internet scene right now.

    For a real picture of the state of technolodgy in a third world country. There is an interesting interview with the three Zambian ISP's at : http://zambia.co.zm/infotelli gence/isp_interview.html [zambia.co.zm]

  • Just because I live comfortably, I'm responsible for everyone elses well being in the world? Fuck that. It's called evolution. And harsh as it might seem, if they don't have food or water, then let them god damn die. It's called evolution. If they were intended to live, they'd crawl out of their hole and become something meaningful.

    But the chances of that are unlikley, and if you're going to label me as racist, check out this book. [amazon.com] It's by an Oxford professeur of the mid 70's who came to the logical conclusion that racial differences exceeded skin color.

    To refer to an excellent summary, "To Baker, a biologist, it is patently obvious. Races differ. The Japanese cannot win at basketball, sprints, or the high jump. If body size is critical for sports, brain size is critical for civilization building. This leads to a thorough discussion of brain size, the development of IQ measurements, and the heritability of intelligence. Baker concludes that only Europids and the Mongolids are capable of founding civilizations. If the capacity to originate civilizations is the criterion, some races and subraces are superior, while others are inferior. Baker relates absorbing information concerning intelligence in mixed-race people. The American Negro is about 25% Europid, but this varies, especially from north to south. Intelligence in Negroes depends on the percentage of White blood. For example, Furguson's 1914 study showed that quadroons (3/4 White and 1/4 Black) are the most intelligent Negroes, but are far below Whites. " Down with PCism and up with realism. =)
  • Yah, but when you go and buy software, and that shit stinks like some sweaty indian programming sweatshop, you'll know the price you pay. OS/3 will be the first one to come with its own god damn deodrant.
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
    Hah! IBM found people who'll work for less money than the Indians. OS/3 will be Linux.

    On the plus side, since they don't control it, they won't be able to fuck it up like they invariably do with the products they make.

  • Erm, coward, whether or not people prefer to live in well-developed first-world countries doesn't stop them exploiting the developing worlds. Grow up.

  • Yes, isn't it awful that those dirty poor brown people get access to phones and computers and televeision broadcasts, just like you?

    No, but it's awful when technology is dumped people and is questionably not beneficial. Grow up.


  • It should be noted, for non-Spanish speakers, that Pendejo Sin Nombre, translates roughly as Nameless Asshole. I think Slashdot would profit a great deal from a similar terminology.

    That's how Babelfish [altavista.com] translates it but a more accurate translation is nameless moron. Otherwise, I agree with you. Slash could benefit from a similar terminology.
  • I'm happy to hear that things are going so well in Latin America, compared to other places. I mentioned Ecuador in my post, since my g/f worked down there for a summer and said nothing positive about the conditions. Of course, she doesn't /., so I wouldn't really expect her to notice things pertinent to this discussion.

    My post was formed with an image of poor (with a capital P) living conditions. Obviously, if you have electricity, indoor plumbing, windows, etc., then internet access is one of the next big steps. But imagine a shack out in the wastelands with NOTHING. Adding internet access won't help.
  • I'll concede that your translation may be more accurate than mine (Spanish not being my first language), even though I thought 'pendejo' was used as a deriding term for an annoying person, i.e., an asshole. I also think the literal translation of 'pendejo' is 'pube'.
    Now let's petition Rob for the name change ;-)
  • 16 comments and already people are claiming that the developing world should have perfect health infrastructures before getting IT. First of all, it's not like there are teams of plumber/sysadmins trying to decide which projects to pursue. Secondly, information poverty can hold back health-related projects as much as lack of money and investment.

    Information technology can increase knowledge of health concerns, funding sources, successful development models, social information about human rights and the environment, crop prices, and more. It can provide new training and opportunities, bridging the significant gap between rural and urban life.

    If you are really interested and aren't just expressing a contrarian point to be cool, try this World Bank paper [infodev.org] on the need for IT in the developing world and the obstacles to introducing it. It's in PDF.

    Yogurt

  • I was going more for humor, I was just as surprised that it was moderated as insightful as well.
  • Ubiquitous internet access will do more than plumbing, but not because of it's content. The content of the internet is like any other reflection of humanity-mostly vapidness.
    But the rising tide lifts all ships, which is why we see progress in a few precious, benificial areas. Also bouyed, however, are thoughtlesness, greed and a lack of compassion.
    Basically it's going to get worse before it gets better. The internet is a great loopback. When most people have the ability to absorb the real fabric of our race, we will begin to make decisions rooted in this fabric, rather than being confounded by our "leaders".
  • You're lucky I'm replying to this and enlightening that narrow minded brain of yours: bauhaus is more than an architecture, but an interesting design school for its ideology and place in the history of design (do you know anything about these things?). Come back when you have something intelligent to say.

  • Plumbing? Other infrastructure? Who needs it? When I moved into my new apartment, I didn't even have the gas turned on, but you can bet your ass I had my high-speed Internet access!!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Is it possible that near-universal Internet access might do more in the long run than plumbing and other infrastructure improvements to help raise people in developing nations out of poverty?

    What is the internet used for these days? The best thing AFAIC is its potential for research. No more thousand dollar encyclopediae, just check encarta.com. It's also good for more casual research, like finding what's the best hard drive or the best car. Also it's good for buying stuff without having to leave the house and deal with the incompetents/incompetence of CompUSA. And of course the convenience of email is nice and does make the world seem much smaller.

    However, I fail to see how the Internet is going to bring anybody out of poverty. Of all these "selling points" for the internet, tell me, which is the one that will magically lift people up and give them great lives? The internet is all well and good and It's nice that poor countries are getting connected, but really, who in their right minds would choose internet connectivity over plumbing or paved roads? This seems quite ludicrous to me. I think a nation below the poverty line should be more focused on feeding its people than giving them email accounts. But people will do what they want, so let them eat dotcoms.

    Ev.
  • by Peter Eckersley ( 66542 ) on Sunday July 09, 2000 @08:29AM (#947710) Homepage
    Electricity, sanitation, water, food, and medical care are all necessities that we in the United States and the rest of the first world take for granted every single day that other not so fortunate nations do not have ready access to. I have yet to hear one subsistence farmer complain about his inability to gain wondrous knowledge from Internet sites such as Slashdot. I do hear about a lack of sanitary water to drink, much less to bathe, or food shortages due to corruption and infrastructural inefficiences causing famine. My parents grew up in 1940s Malaysia, and just thinking about the differences in our experiences makes me thank God that I was fortunate enough to be spared that.

    You are correct in claiming that there are things that a lot of people on this planet have got to worry about for survival before they can think about net access. You are unwise to flame Roblimo for asking the question. Arguing that we must provide universal basic infrastructure before thinking about brining the net to impoverished countries is quite naive.

    What you have not considered is the reason why Sudan or Chechnya (your examples) are impoverished. In most cases, poverty has little to do with a lack of resources and much more to do with politics. Also, your examples are places where conditions are extremely harsh; there are numerous "third world" countries in less drastic situations.

    Providing net cafes may help communities far more than, for example, providing electricity to every home. It is only when people have some access to education and information that they can hope to actually improve their situations.

  • Thanks for your condescending enlightenment. The world needs more people who "truly" know what is going on.
  • I wonder if the WB has a research paper generator, where you could plug in several topical buzzwords, and the engine will take care of spreading them over the standard thirty pages of neo-liberal drivel about "opening up" the "markets", "liberalizing" the "marketplace", "leveling" the "playing field", and "removing" the "barriers" to "free trade."

    One would think that after the debacles in Russia and South East Asia, the WB/IMF duo would have released a new version of the generator, one with a keyword dictionary expanded to use such terms as "social responsibility", "structural reform", "historical and cultural specifics" and a few other variables that would help produce a more accurate output. Instead, as we clearly see with this paper, both the algorithm

    if !deregulation
    statistics = random
    policy(statistics, buzzwords)
    print(policy_return)
    fi

    and the dictionary have remained at the version released in the early 90s.

    The result? Foreign conglomerate gobbles up former local monopolist with an investment safely backed by the Western taxpayer via their respective country's equivalent of the Export-Import Bank, splits the profits between corrupt local officials and foreign shareholders, acquires unrestrained access to a miserably paid, subservient (no deregulation in the realm of political oppression) workforce and offsets the inevitable downturn in its stockprice and the welfare of the Western state by opening up a new profit lifeline abroad. Tight plan. Not bad for an old app.
    --
    Violence is necessary, it is as American as cherry pie.
    H. Rap Brown

  • Many people are missing the point.

    One of the largest problems in poverty-stricken areas is education. Basic sanitation, care of diseases, how to keep crops productive, etc. Education does not proceed by trying to teach everyone. Instead you proceed by trying to identify key people and teach them, then rely on traditional networks to spread that knowledge.

    Computers in every home is a silly goal. Computers in the third world are far more likely to be like television. A village may only have one with someone who can use it. But that one is a resource for the whole village.

    Cheers,
    Ben
  • You're right that it's no suprise that the World Bank comes down on the side of deregulation in this paper, as it has in so many other places. The paper also promotes the role of an "honest information broker" like, surprise, the World Bank. People should understand the source of the policy recommendations in the paper.

    However, I was recommending the paper as a good introduction to the potential benefits of IT. Whether or not you agree with the World Bank's view of how to obtain them is another matter. I'm still undecided.

    I'm writing something right now about IT and the developing world and haven't seen any statistics to counteract the Bank's claim that increased telecommunication deregulation leads to economic strengh for all levels of society. If anyone has counterexamples or stats, I'd be happy to read them.

    Yogurt
  • Did anyone actually read the article in the Post before spouting off? The Ashaninka village raised their revenues by 10% using e-commerce to sell their organically raised oranges in Lima 250 miles (or was it kilometers) away. You don't think that 10% revenue growth is significant in a community of that size? Maybe to buy more food?

    Also of interest was the mother's comment, "I may already be part of a lost generation, but my children won't be." You see, she can't read well enough to use the internet, but she's making sure her kids learn.

    As others have said, South America != Africa. Much of the land is arable and many of the societies are agrarian. They are eating just fine, they just can't get above subsistence living because in the past wealth was based on natural resources. Now that wealth can be knowledge based, these countries have a hope of pulling themselves out of poverty, and rich US citizens are going to sit back and tell them they are doing it in the wrong order.

    2nd. Most humanitarian organizations have discovered that communication is the first requirement. If you provide food with no way for them to ask for help if the crop fails, they just starve next year instead of this (that applies more to Africa than SA). If you provide communication, they can help themselves by learning about plumbing and why they need it, etc.

    I generally enjoy /. but this thread was lead by folks who didn't read the article, don't know anything about geopolitics or economics.

    BTW, they were provided with a generator (their first electricy) and a satellite dish. Do you think that maybe they can use these for other improvements as well as e-commerce, distance learning (one of them has made it to the university -- a first)?

    jeez.
  • Being Brazilian, I'd like to express my opinion.

    Here in Brazil there is a very bad wealth distribution. By pure coincidence, I have recent figures, as a major Brazilian magazine published this week an article regarding the rich guys [uol.com.br]. It's consent here that one of the major problems is the wealth distribution.

    Those who have an annual income of R$ 7.716 (US$ 4.000) are among the 10% richest Brazilians. Those who earn more than R$ 26.400 (US$ 13894) are the 1% richest, and their incoming is greater than the total incoming of the 50% poorest.

    Of course, this includes poor rural areas. Big cities, like Sao Paulo, are quite like NYC. Money is mostly concentrated in the capitals (Sao Paulo, Rio, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, etc). In these big cities, like in Sao Paulo, that's where I live, we have some places with a standard of life similar to more developed countries. Yes, we have ADSL, cable modem, Mc Donald's, HBO, WB TV, and most stuff americans have. There are like 10 million Brazilians w/ Internet access (not sure about this number.).

    This said, we can add that there are lots of illiterates and people who can't have access to the Internet.

    And let's face it. Most people will simply use it for on-line chatting. Few people will do something useful with it, let alone profit from it. I guess only those with more culture will actually research or do something productive. But if they have some culture, they most probably are not in the 50% poorest group.

    This way, the net can cause even more social distortion. This can be bad. On the other way, the net can really bring new opportunities to people who wouldn't have conditions for such.

    Knowing how to access the net will soon be one of the pre-requisites of many jobs. Knowing how to use a computer already is. This will make the computer illiterates socially excluded.

    So, in my opinion, it'll contribute for some of the poorest people to become even poorer, but will give many new opportunities. It's not necessarily bad or good. It's a change. People call it progress.
  • "A village may only have one with someone who can use it. But that one is a resource for the whole village" Having grown up comfortably in the Philippines, I have long wondered why the less affluent behaved so differently from the more westernized upper classes. And I think I've figured at least part of it out. They do not take something as truth until someone they trust says it is - i.e. they don't like reading something directly from the source and deciding for themselves. It sounds ignorant and hopeless, until you realize everyone does it to some degree, depending on their grasp of the subject matter. As people who have not had access to decent libraries go online, I believe they will use the internet differently. For example, farmers will not check crop prices and research new agricultural methods on their own; rather, they will get the information off someone they trust, who will in turn get the information off the net. This insulates them from being fooled by scams and disinformation, as their trusted expert (likely a respected farmer himself) would do this for a living and become familiar with the pitfalls, and perhaps even contribute to the body of knowledge he was drawing from. Not too different from the way things work today, except the "expert" is often an outsider paid by a grant from the World Bank and beholden to their (often misguided) policies.
  • People that live on rural zones are the first one to use technology, as soon as they can, because it drops down the cost of their business dramatically.

    Who do you think will use e-mail more? the guy that lives on the capital of the country (who can just pick up the phone and make a local call) or the guy who lives 1000 km far from the capital?

    Of course "they need food before internet" (I saw a lot of posts with smart ass comments like that), and Internet will let them get more food for less price.

    --

  • If you'd like to really make a difference, you might cruise over to [Heifer.org] [heifer.org] and take a gander at their charity system.

    They set villages up with livestock. They're used for labour, for their eggs/milk/fleece/whatever, or they're bred (for food).

    Most impressive is the ratio of administration-to-assistance. Only about 8% of your donation goes toward administring the charity; another 16% goes to fundraising. The remaining 75% goes to the people that are being helped.

    It's a lot better than most programs, where the ratios are often quite the reverse (most of the money going to paycheques for fatcat administrators).


    --
  • by yankeehack ( 163849 ) on Sunday July 09, 2000 @07:54AM (#947722)
    I'm not quite sure about that because:

    If a kid can't read, he can't use the Internet.

    If a kid can't do better than rudimentary math, she can't program.

    If a kid doesn't have an education, the the kid isn't going to go farther than the local factory or field. And I think the Internet can help supplement a child's education (and the local infrastructure) but I don't think online instruction can replace the real thing.

    The rise and usefulness of the Internet depends on many factors, not just making PCs available or how many miles of cable can be laid.

"The medium is the massage." -- Crazy Nigel

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