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UN Secretary-General Asks for Help 241

knownsense writes " is carrying a feature by Kofi Annan talking of the digital divide. He says, "But bridging the digital divide is not going to be easy. Too often, state monopolies charge exorbitant prices for the use of bandwidth." and of bringing WiFi to the developing world. This at a time when places like Panama ban cheaper means of communication and places like India instead of combating absolute illiteracy and hunger, run out to make PDAs. Is the digital divide a purely western concept?"
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UN Secretary-General Asks for Help

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  • by Performer Guy ( 69820 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @08:58AM (#4606651)
    I'm not convinced this can be solved from outside or that all cultures want it solved. This kind of transformation needs to start from within. Indiais a great example of a country with excellent educational expertise and literacy, but they lack the educational infrastructure to deliver it to everyone. Compounding this their culture is not geared towards allowing all childern to spend their time learning. Many children in India and other cultures are breadwinners.

    Bootstsapping industries in these countries also requires profound cultural change that is often rejected.
    • by Annoyed Coward ( 620173 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @09:27AM (#4606748) Homepage Journal
      Agree most of it.

      But I attribute most of it to lack of time. Starting with independence just 50 years ago, lead by some leaders without good vision, lack of infrastructure, burried in corruption, accompanied by population explosion - India has come a looooooong way on the path of development. Some sections of the country are comparable to developed world.

      India has 4.5 million computers. The number is not impressive when you look at total population. But most important fact is, it has reached within reach of middle class educated masses. e-banking was a pleasent surprise when I touched India this time.

      While accepting all you said, I believe, more powers to younger generation will accelerate the growth.

    • by abhikhurana ( 325468 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @09:39AM (#4606793)
      "Compounding this their culture is not geared towards allowing all childern to spend their time learning. Many children in India and other cultures are breadwinners."

      Its not the culture mind you. NO where is it decried that you shud have more children as they are bread winners. Its an adapatation according to the circumstances. Its no different from what we do just before the exam. We know that if we dont study now we will flunk. In the same way those people know that if their children dont earn, the whole family will starve. And when one's survival is at stake, ethics dont really matte anymore. And once u do something repeatedly, you stop feeling bad about it.

      As far as spending money on PDAs is concerned, the whole aim of the project was to improve the circumstances which force these people to send their children to work, i.e poverty. Its the same logic, you give a man food and he will be hungry the next day, teach him how to grow food and you have given him food for life. And the next logical question will be how will it tackle poverty. Well, majority of Indians depend on agriculture for a living. And this PDA can help them to find out about new techniques, weather patterns (it rains only four months in a year in India hence correct information about the timing of rains is very important) et. Besides it can reach people where the educational infrastructure is not very good and hence help improve the overall quality of life.

    • It is not just education that is an issue when the discussion turns to giving people access to the internet. Alot of the benefits of a network infrastructure are not bandwidth intensive. I saw a documentary recently about Indian rice farmers being able to break out of the grip of local businessmen who used isolation to get good prices on rice since the farmers had no way of finding out what prices were being offered by other merchants in the region. What happened to change that was one guy with an old PC and a 28.8 modem setting up shop and selling price lists for all kinds of crops in cities in the vicinity or ever brokering deals online. All of a sudden an illiterate farmer could get upto 40% more money for his oxcart full of rice or any other crop for that matter and even sell it instantly over the net in exchange for a few rupees to the broker. These Indian farmers are people who we westerners are all to often tempted to assume that they "come out of the middle ages" and yet it took them less than 5 minutes flat to discover the advantages of online auctions. Cultural barriers to the introduction of new technology are often overestimated.
    • India needs a moral, rather than a technological breakthrough before they can advance. The caste system imposed by the Hindu religion requires that the darkest and poorest suffer for the benefit of the upper castes. Any advance that benefitted the population as a whole would be considered a waste. This is why only about half the population is literate. If you wanted good education, food, and shelter, you should have been a better person in your last life. Just be glad you aren't an insect.
  • by Franco_Begbie ( 557200 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @08:59AM (#4606653)
    The "Digital Divide" is nothing but a fear of change. Governments need to realize that moving with the times is not a bad thing.
    • Either. Or it is going to dawn on them anyways.

      More rationally, the divide is creation of nature which divides early catchers, and is true for everything else (even financial divide). There is always going to be gap between Pathbreakers and people who need baby-sitting.

      my 2 cents :-)

    • The "Digital Divide" is nothing but a fear of change

      So you don't think its an expensive operation to set up, run and maintain a reliable communications infrastructure? You don't think that modern hardware is expensive in other parts of the world? Just exactly where is the investment in this infrastructure going to come from? Cancelling third world debt - don't you think there are other short-term problems are probably more important - like hunger, sanitation, electrification?

      What you miss is that expenditure in the digital realm is an investment in education - something that has far-reaching and long-term advantages to an economy, but not something that solves problems overnight. Investing in an infrastructure to accommodate the ludicrous preconceptions of web designers doesn't help sort out the primary problems. But not investing in education keeps third world nations further and further behind the developed world.

      With the cost of keeping a reliable infrastructure up-to-date constantly rising because of the dumbing down (hence more inaccessible content) philosophy of website designers, it is impossible for third-world countries to balance both concerns.

      So it may seem to you its all about "fear of change", but in fact its a bleak choice between feeding the starving population and guaranteeing them no future, or investing in the future and tough luck to the starving population. Third world countries can't afford both investments - and I'm sure the US wouldn't be able to cope in the same situation either.

    • The digital divide is a real thing. A quick example is Mcdonalds. They are so idiot proofing their operations right now, that I expect that within 10 years, they will seriously curtail their hiring of low skilled people. They have pictures of burgers and fries on their cash registers, pictures of the size of the drinks on the buttons at the soda machine, and dispensors that give out exact amounts of ketchup to put on the burgers. It is obvious that this is going to go robotic eventually when the price is justified.

      Manual labor jobs such as housecleaning, gardening, fast food are going to dissapear. The people who only qualify for those jobs are not. The government can move along all it wants, but a guy with a 82 IQ is not going to get transitioned into being an IT worker.

    • The "Digital Divide" is nothing but a non-issue.

      It's an attempt to create an issue for which there is no need in order to throw money at a problem that does not exsist.

      Let's take India.

      1.05 billion people according to the CIA World Factbook 2002 with a 1.51 % growth rate.

      Because of various descriminations against female births there is widspread abortion of female fetuses and you are 1.05 men for every women.

      There are 61 deaths for every 1,000 live births, giving it a developing country IMR.

      "India's economy encompasses traditional village farming, modern agriculture, handicrafts, a wide range of modern industries, and a multitude of support services. About a quarter of the population is too poor to be able to afford an adequate diet."

      Any time the UN thinks there is a problem, I worry. The UN caused all sorts of problems in Bangladesh from the wells dug which are naturally contaminated with arsenic.

      Developing nations need to solve problems of literacy, physical infrastructure, and other social problems way before they spend any money on non-issues like the "digital divide".
  • Divide? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by today ( 27810 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @08:59AM (#4606655) Homepage
    We hear of a "Digital Divide", but never a "Health Halving" or a "Food Fjord" or a "Freedom Fission". "Digital Divide" seems to be just a handy buzz term to throw around when you are a technologist and have no real ideas that address a country's true problems...
  • by octalgirl ( 580949 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @08:59AM (#4606657) Journal
    It is so difficult to form any type of organization aimed at bridging the digital divide. Here in the US the PowerUp program [] just died. If a program like that can't survive in one well-developed country, how can something similar take on the world's technology deficiencies?

    From the article: "Though it failed to eliminate the divide, the program--established in 1999--did succeed in equipping nearly 1,000 high-tech computer labs in underserved areas across the country before pulling the plug."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @09:00AM (#4606659)
    I am constantly dismayed by talk of the "digital divide". Firstly because it's one of these silly media-coined expressions. But secondly (and mainly) because I don't really understand why this is a problem.

    You never hear people talking about the Ferrari divide, the posh house with swimming pool divide or things like that. Yes, it would be great if everyone could benefit from technology, but just at the minute, it's not for everyone. And what's wrong with that?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      there's no ferrari divide of course because a ferrari is an end, it's what you spend your wealth on.

      there is a digital divide because, increasingly, understanding of and access to digital technology is essential in wealth creation. be poor, then you are denied access to what could make you less poor. so you stay poor.
      1. Be poor
      2. ??????
      3. get poorer.
      1. Be rich
      2. buy a computer
      3. Profit!!!

      I would have thought this was obvious.
      • It isn't obvious, and isn't even necessarily true.


        1. Be poor
        2. Choose a good, reasonably priced college
        3. Go to college
        4. Apply for financial aid and take out loans
        5. Major in something marketable
        6. Work hard, differentiate yourself from your peers
        7. Graduate
        8. Get a job making more right out of college than your parents make after 20+ years in the work force
        9. Prosper
        10. Buy whatever you want

        That's what I did. That's what a number of my family members a generation back did *before* the so-called Digital Divide was available to lay blame. Some of them are just plain rich, not because they got a free ride, but because they made wise choices and significant sacrifices to attain long term gains rather than instant gratification. I think about this every time I see a lower class person handing over food stamps or other forms of public assistance while chatting away on their cell phone. For the politically correct, I almost said "apparently lower class", but speaking in economic terms, you aren't middle class if you're on public assistance.

        I have what may be surprising news for you on a couple fronts. Buying a computer doesn't lead to profit, in spite of what the signs tacked to utility poles everywhere lead you to believe. They're primarily entertainment devices. The so called working poor aren't all noble and hardworking but downtrodden people, though undoubtedly some are. Those that are don't spend their lives as "working poor". Some people find their comfort zones rather lower than others. Some people are in low paying jobs and complain up a storm but never get off their duffs to go look for something better. It's a competitive world. Those who figure that out and bother to show up for the competition are appropriately rewarded.

        The simple fact is that there are no silver bullets to financial security. There's planning, hard work, good financial sense, and the like, but there's no "buy a computer, change your life". Getting an education can and does make a huge impact in your lifelong earnings. If you want to make a difference in people's lives, convince them to get one, take it seriously (don't spend your time swilling beer), and base their education on projected employment trends, not as some poor excuses for college advisors have said, on what you like.

    • "I don't really understand why this is a problem."

      The digital divide exists everywhere. Just pay attention to the very state/town/city you live in. One school system can have a phenomenal technology infrasturcure, that provides improved education, access to information, robotics and engineering programs, the list goes on. The next district can have absolutley nothing.

      Secretaries trying to record attendance on an old 486 and printing report cards on a dot-matrix. (go ahead - take a good look at your kids report card next time) This problem can even be found in the same district, where one school, due to a powerful and proactive parent group, has a wealth of technology, and the next school down the street does not. You do want equal education for your children, don't you?
    • by Isofarro ( 193427 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @09:38AM (#4606789) Homepage
      Yes, it would be great if everyone could benefit from technology, but just at the minute, it's not for everyone. And what's wrong with that?

      The Web was developed during the early nineties, at the time we had 286 processors just going in to the 386 world. So all that's needed to surf the World Wide Web (as a knowledge base) is a 286 with a dial-up connection and a web browser.

      The foundation of the Web hasn't changed. Neither has the user requirements. But website designers expect that visitors have the most recent version of Internet Explorer with cookies, javascript and Flash enabled.

      So the barrier to entry on the World Wide Web has been increased by web designers. Recycled hardware is anathema to a web designer - even though this provides a better hardware platform than the top-range PC's at the start of the Web revolution.

      This senseless raising of the bar has prevented a significant audience from using the Web to enrich their knowledge and better themselves.

      Why has this barrier been continually heightened? The only discernible reason is that web designers believe their audience is stupid and lacks the attention span to read text, this leads to geegaw type sites with functionally useless animation effects and inaccessible content to cater for this attention deficit disorder that webdesigners proclaim their (largely US) audience suffers.

      So by catering to the deficiencies of the US education system and its associated youth, this makes the barrier to using the web as a learning and education tool higher and higher with each passing year.

      This dumbing down of the Internet content is what creates higher and higher barriers to entry, because more and more content is inaccessible to anything other than a modern browser running on modern hardware. And _there_ is your digital divide.

      Everyone _can_ benefit from technology, but as long as webdesigners continue delivering websites that require the latest gadgets just to dumb down websites for deficient attentions, it futher reduces the international audience the website can cater for.

      Accessibility is a cornerstone of reducing this ludicrous digital divide. But as long as webdesigners keep using the cartoon network as an example of how to create websites, they'll keep dumbing down their content, and keep making it more expensive for any new country to make use of the WWW.
      • you're thinking in decade old technology. Dial up? That's disgustingly ineffecient. How about everyone gets a switched ip line? You can run it over cat3/pots with some outdated DSL equipment. Even better might be IPsec'd 802.11b. Talk about cheap commodity; two neighboring villages can have a high speed comm line for a total investment of about $300 in materials. Don't worry about last century's technology (okay, so that's some blatant exaggeration, maybe last decade's technology?), with these 286 and 386 chips - they're good, but mostly dead. You'd have to completely remake any system that used them - then again, if you use a text-based browsing solution that uses a 386 chip and isa interface, it might be useful. But I'd think you'd need to make a decent system board.
      • The Web was developed during the early nineties, at the time we had 286 processors just going in to the 386 world. So all that's needed to surf the World Wide Web (as a knowledge base) is a 286 with a dial-up connection and a web browser.

        This will still get you IRC and email, and perhaps some access to news, etc in lynx. But yeah, no flash sites for these guys. I did OK on the local text-based internet with a 386/33 (I think, I may have had a 486 by then) and a 2400 baud modem.

        It's a good forward step though, it's good to keep in mind that in many cases "anything is better than nothing"

        • What do flash movies have to do with anything? The idea here is to deliver information, not entertain.
  • by mirko ( 198274 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @09:02AM (#4606667) Journal
    we hear loads of things about it nowadays but I sincerely guess that before supposing we could just computize them, we'd better begin to :
    1. decently remunerate their cultures []
    2. cancel the third world debt and begin some real funding, instead of relying on the exponential reimbursements. We could, for example, ask some small but healthy countries to tutor some countries, not financially speaking but by publicly councelling every and each of their foreign-economy issues.
    3. re-consider the very concept of third world debt []

    I know this sounds as a troll and most people expect me to bash the Bush (actually if a small country was chosen by the UNO to monitor every Iraqi transaction, I then guess that some planned invasion would -all of a sudden- become less urgent) but I really think that to the point that you may downvote this electronical impulse of mine to oblivion, this won't change my advice.
    • by guybarr ( 447727 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @09:19AM (#4606720)

      And never give money for free if you want to help someone.

      Cancelling a debt will hurt the recipient in the long run: He will get used to getting help for free and develop an addiction.

      There are other ways to help: I believe that third world countries should be given lower interest loans, even zero-interest loans ; conditioned by their changing their economies and reducing corruption.

      This IT help the UN aparently wants to give poor countries is a step in the right direction.

      But relinquishing debt is stupid and eventually hurts the poor more than the rich.
      • I guess you have never heard of bankruptcy.

        "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?" -Ebenezer Scrooge

        • I guess you have never heard of bankruptcy.

          Bankruptcy is (and should be) a financial mark of cain: it means this person/buisness cannot be taken seriously financially.

          It gives protection from debters, but the price is that no serious body will (should) make buisness with the bankrupt body or his former management.

          For a person, or a buisness to sell their future so is one thing, for a state to do so is one of the worst possible scenarios financially. It is selling your children's financial future for a couple of pennies today.

          This is why I insist one should not if at all posible declare a country bankrupt: one should insist on it fulfilling its obligations in a pragmatic manner: forgo interest payments and return debts adjusted with inflation, in a reasonable period of time.

          The rich countries will not be hurt at all from forgoing such lost debts. The only ones really hurt will be the third-worlders.

          "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?" -Ebenezer Scrooge

          Don't insult. Convince.
          • Keep in mind that a lot of these countries still haven't worked their way past the fruits of colonialism: corruption (inspired largely by abrupt transitions from colonialism to democracy without the development of a social and political infrastructure to fight corruption), ethnic violence (the boundaries of most of the debtor countries outside South America were the result of negotiations between colonial powers and do not reflect the geographical or cultural realities of the states that resulted from decolonialization), etc.

            This at a time when places like Panama ban cheaper means of communication and places like India instead of combating absolute illiteracy and hunger, run out to make PDAs.

            You think India is doing nothing to combat illiteracy and hunger?

            By the way, why do you think they're building those PDAs? To make products that will be bought either by the developed world or bought by the wealthy in the developing world in place of imports from developed industrial countries. Either way, it puts more money in the pockets of locals, and diversifies the economy.

      • by fantomas ( 94850 )

        How about :

        "Don't invade countries, steal all their wealth, enslave their citizens, destroy their infrastructure and put in a puppet government otherwise it will become an economic basket case and in a hundred years time you will have to loan them millions of dollars to help them rebuild a basic infrastructure and not become a hotbed of hatred against your country"?

        The current world is a result of previous generations empire-building. We should try our best to avoid these mistakes again. A lot of countries are in debt because they were forced into these situations by other countries, usually through military force.

        As my friend in Cambodia said to me, it's hard to get excited about IT when you're trying to clear up the landmines that no one else cares about any more. It needs to be part of a bigger solution.

        • "Don't invade countries...otherwise it will become an economic basket case."

          You mean, like France and Germany? Japan? South Korea?

          Much of the developmental stagnation today has nothing to do with invade/don't invade, former colony/not colony, etc.

          It does, however, have a lot to do with cultural ethic - especially those based in mysticism (and nurtured by the ruling elite).

          Look at the worst example in the western hemisphere: Haiti. Overwhelmed with mysticism believes that destroy any attempt to create a logical mental framework - voodoo, magic, etc.

          Mysticism systems are very good at destroying the ability to corrolate cause/effect (mysticism suppresses the perceived significance of effect - e.g. "the spirits make everything happen") so productive value system elements like "work ethic," "marital stability," education, etc. cannot take root. Why work hard, educate yourself, avoid getting AIDS, etc. when a spirit makes all the difference (and you have none)?

          The first and only step for these countries is to plant seeds of reason.

          Per Haiti, a good friend of mine (an exceptional radio engineer) contributes much of his time building and maintaining repeater networks, a TV station, and a radio station for a part of rural Haiti. He donates several weeks a year working there as well as many hours a week back home building stuff.

          Absent a government that promotes reason, I think efforts like his and others are about the only chance places like Haiti have for progress.


        • The question comes down to philosophical identity of countries; i.e. are the countries of today responsible for their sins of yesterday? The answer to this question governs the responsibilities of both sides of the economic divide today:

          After regime and generation changes, should a Third-World country still be responsible for paying back their debt? Countries cannot declare bankrupcy in the North American sense and so the actions of a dictator or irresponsible government can screw a country financially for decades (if not centuries).

          Should Western countries be responsible for the colonialism of the past? Even more tenuous: should new Western countries (eg: the US) be responsible for the colonialism of their parent countries (eg: the UK)? This applies not only to international colonialism but also national colonialism such as Native-population relations.

          If Germany was held responsible for WWII, then shouldn't the Allies have executed it as a country? (For example by giving governance over the territory to neighbouring Allies.) Instead the Allies gave the Axis a helping hand and helped make them the economic juggernauts they are today. Perhaps rather than trying trade sanctions against somewhere like Cambodia we should try a similar scorched-earth policy.

          Also, I should point out: just because it's not your fault that people are starving, doesn't mean that you're not ethically obliged to help them out.

          • The question comes down to philosophical identity of countries; i.e. are the countries of today responsible for their sins of yesterday? The answer to this question governs the responsibilities of both sides of the economic divide today:

            It comes down to a notion of financial trust. Like it or not, investors will not invest in a body which does not adress his and his predecessors debts.

            It may not be just, it may be bad philosophy, it does scrue the poor, but that's the way it usually is and I can't think of a way to change it.

            Also, I should point out: just because it's not your fault that people are starving, doesn't mean that you're not ethically obliged to help them out.

            This discussion , as I see it, is not about fault or morals, it about pragmatism and effective help. I'm saying there are ways of helping people or countries in the short run which are detrimental in the long run.

            Obligation to help does not mean you must do something for the sake of doing, w/o regarding the consequences.
      • Cancelling a debt will hurt the recipient in the long run: He will get used to getting help for free and develop an addiction.
        Not to forget foreign aid has contributed in propping up dictators & bad ecnonomic policies.
      • This would make sense in cases where there is continuity between the party that incurred the debts and the party obligated to pay them in any sense but name. In many cases, there is not even that.

        What you are saying is very much equivalent to saying that if a parent dies in debt, and even after the estate is liquidated there is not enough money to cover the obligations, the children should still be forced to pay off the debts.

        There is enough inequity in the world that stems from one generation being forced to pay for previous generations' fsck-ups, and a lot of it is pretty much inevitable. But we need not explicitly introduce more.

    • They tried that in the 1800s, except they called it "Imperialism", then.

      No country wants all of its policy decisions to be subject to review by a larger, more powerful nation. It just makes the 'learning' country turn into a sovereign zone of the tutoring country. Any country put in the position of "tutoring" or "coaching" another country is going to do so to their own advantage, and turn that country into a smaller version of itself. Given how much culture clash would be present, I can't exactly see that this is a workable solution.
  • Dammit!
    One of my favorite arguments when talking to people that thinks that broadband prices are to high for everyone to afford was that, "hmm, when did internet access become part of the human rights?".
    Now i'll have to find a new argument... grrrr

  • This whole "digital divide" thing is a moot question. Computing is getting cheaper and cheaper to the point where it will become ubiquitous. Except ironically that by the time we reach that point, the corporations and media will have completed their entire takeover of the computing infrastructure, so none of us will be empowered.
  • "digital divide" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BitwizeGHC ( 145393 )
    A digital divide is a symptom of a set of much more deep-rooted problems, not a cause. I think diplomats like to pay lip service to the "digital divide" so they can look like they're concerned about the issues at hand when they're really not. After all, having an enormous underclass to put to cheap labor is good for big business.
    • A digital divide is a symptom of a set of much more deep-rooted problems, not a cause. I think diplomats like to pay lip service to the "digital divide" so they can look like they're concerned about the issues at hand when they're really not. After all, having an enormous underclass to put to cheap labor is good for big business.

      Perhaps some of the reason for this rhetoric is to get subsidies for technology companies who have seen their sales slack off a bit because their target markets have become saturated?

      #1 Get Governemnts To Pony Up Money To Buy Our Products
      #2 Look Good Doing It ...Helping Poor People By Offering Slight But Still Comfortably Profitible Discount
      #3 Pump Share Price
      #4 Profit
  • Baloney... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SexyKellyOsbourne ( 606860 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @09:07AM (#4606680) Journal
    Funding the "digital divide" is only a subsidy for major telecommunications companies to invade third-world countries and other places to set up their infrastructure for future profit.

    Other infrastructure should be set up in poor countries first -- how about drinking water first? Most countries don't have it, and children around the world are drinking filthy water while the UN gives lip service to the "digital divide."

    Even in America, the drug and crime problem should be rooted out in poor neighborhoods before we go and give away internet access to those who will never use it.
    • Re:Baloney... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dolo666 ( 195584 )
      Yeah, unless there is some kind of governing body that has power over all countries, there is no way to ensure they will follow the rules. The only problem is that humanity is too childlike to govern themselves correctly. We all behave like idiots when we get a bit of power. So we are all pitted against eachother on this rock and we have no real way to get through it without sheer genius.

      Why don't we let the computers govern us and make certain they are smart enough not to glitch out or start wearing humans link mink stoles. Alan Watts used to talk about this stuff all the time and people listened to him, or at least I thought they did. I think he had a number of good ideas.

      The only impartial creature on earth is a computer.
    • Re:Baloney... (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Other infrastructure should be set up in poor countries first -- how about drinking water first? Most countries don't have it, and children around the world are drinking filthy water while the UN gives lip service to the "digital divide."

      learn what you are talking about, maybe even how better insfrastructure could help the numerous projects the UN runs to help eliminate filthy drinking water, vaccination programs, agricultural programs, etc.

      hell, maybe even read the article..." Information technology is not a magic formula that is going to solve all our problems. But it is a powerful force that can and must be harnessed". Anyone who has been to a true third world country has doubtless seen amazing ways that technology has been used to solve existing problems.

  • by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @09:07AM (#4606684) Homepage Journal
    The "Digital Divide" (whatever that is) probably exists between "North" (wealthier) nations and "South" (poorer) nations but its ultimate causes are rooted in problems that exist in every country:

    • The power of large companies, forcing customers in inferior products, stupid EULAS and contracts that are detrimental to their (customer) interests. Think Microsoft here.
    • A lack of advanced education and communication, which prevents customers from researching and/or using alternatives to said inferior products. Think Linux desktop vs Microsoft desktop here. And yes, Linux is still below the radar for most people out there.
    • A lack of governmental intelligence, producing stupid laws (think... er... CBPTA?) which are ultimately detrimental to the customers. Think Panama vs VOIP here.
    • The massive amount of money most multinationals can drop in front of government officials and members of parliaments... to make sure said stupid laws are passed and entrenched interests are protected. Enron, anyone?

    Think about it: intelligence and education (or a lack thereof) really is a source of problems for a lot of countries.

    Digital Divide? No, Education Divide would be more like it.

    Just my (un)educated opinion, of course.
    • by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @09:39AM (#4606795)
      The power of large companies, forcing customers in inferior products, stupid EULAS and contracts that are detrimental to their (customer) interests. Think Microsoft here.

      From an article in today's NY Times []:

      The charitable group that Mr. Gates started with his wife, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is now giving away $1.2 billion a year. Mr. Gates said he was pleased that its first major philanthropic effort, the library project, had helped to narrow the digital divide.

      Say what you like about Gates and Microsoft, but the fact remains that in dollar terms, he's done far more for worthy causes than the typical Open Source advocate []:

      I'm not going to minimize my attachments by giving it all away, though, so you evangelists for a zillion worthy causes can just calm down out there and forget about hitting me up for megabucks. I am *not* going to be a soft touch, and will rudely refuse all importunities.

      • by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @10:02AM (#4606887) Homepage Journal
        Say what you like about Gates and Microsoft, but the fact remains that in dollar terms, he's done far more for worthy causes than the typical Open Source advocate

        Sure, he is giving a lot of money to his foundation.

        On the other hand, according to this source [], he is worth more than US$ 60bn.

        And, according to this other source [], our charitable friend Bill Gates makes about US$ 31 per second.

        I don't think RMS, Linux, or ESR wealth or income will ever come close...

        So, for Mr Bill Gates, giving US$ 1.2bn per year is... what? Giving away 1/50th of his total worth per year?? Now, that's pretty generous.

        Don't misunderstand me: I truly thing it's generous. But you have to put this into perspective, especially when it comes to your comment about ESR. I personnaly think the article you referenced sipply means ESR is determined to enjoy his money... while we enjoy, for free, the software he created [].
        • What ESR wants to do with his money is his own business, and it's unfair to bash him because of it.

          But the same is true of Bill Gates. Gates doesn't have tens of billions of dollars stuffed into his matress. That's his net worth, including stock and all sort of assets other than cash. Furthermore, Gates has said that he intends to give away most of his fortune, over time (leaving some for his heirs.)

          Many well-known charities are notoriously inefficient when it comes to handling money, and Gates understandably doesn't wish to see the money he gives away wasted. Which charities or philanthropoc efforts he supports and when he supports them is entirely up to him, as it should be. Leave the man alone.
        • You have to unlink these. What ESR does with his money is irrelevant to what Bill Gates does with his money. And on the level of knowing how to spend his money, Gates has to be given credit for donating a cool 1G$ to fight disease among children in 3d world countries. Maybe ESR also donates a good chunk of his income to charity. If so, they're both good people, and comparing them as philanthropists is nonsense.

          Now, if you're asking about generosity with "intellectual property," it's hard to beat people like ESR, RMS, and TBL.

      • Say what you like about Gates and Microsoft, but the fact remains that in dollar terms, he's done far more for worthy causes than the typical Open Source advocate

        Dollar terms is only relevant in a market where software is sold. Open Source software is typically downloaded, not sold, so apportioning a dollar term on open source is ludicrous. Rather take the price of Microsoft software out of the equation first, and _then_ do a comparision.

        IMO, Open Source software has done more for third world countries than Microsoft and their related foundations.
      • *** The charitable group that Mr. Gates started with his wife, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is now giving away $1.2 billion a year. Mr. Gates said he was pleased that its first major philanthropic effort, the library project, had helped to narrow the digital divide.

        just afterthought.. can they by any chance deduct that from taxes?
        • Look at your tax form. A charitable donation to an eligible non-profit (e.g. cannot be political...) can, if you itemize rather than accepting the standard deduction, reduce your taxable income.

          However, it's still a net loss, because you're unlikely to be taxed at rates exceeding 100% (*), so the reduction in tax is guaranteed to be less than the amount you donated.

          (*) It used to and may still perhaps be possible that, if you added $X to your income, you could end up paying more than $X in additional taxes if you triggered AMT in certain rare cases. This has actually happened.
  • not correct (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quigonn ( 80360 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @09:08AM (#4606687) Homepage
    and places like India instead of combating absolute illiteracy and hunger, run out to make PDAs.

    Well, the Simputer was in fact built to combat illiteracy! I saw a documentation about it on a German/Austrian/Swiss TV station "3sat" presenting the Simputer, and they basically showed programs to teach people all kinds of stuff. So, IMHO this is a good thing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @09:19AM (#4606721)
    For "places like India to combat absolute illiteracy and hunger", they need money.

    The best way to make money is to sell the highest-value products and services they can, to those who have it. Hey, it beats begging - and getting "freebies" with strings attached...

    Don't blame them for doing their best.
    • India's telecom monopoly, VSNL, has traditionally been one of the world's biggest and most clueless, and until telecom liberalization started a couple of years ago, you had to deal with them for all services to India, which meant that those services were severely limited, for high-priced voice as well as for very limited Internet except in a few parts of Bangalore. Meanwhile, India's got 200 million highly educate people and a huge unrealized economic potential.

      One of the best things somebody could have done for the world economy was to go to VSNL and ask them how much money it would take to get them to go away and leave everybody alone. It doesn't matter how big a number they say - a billion dollars? Pay them.

      There was a report on US National Public Radio yesterday about the call center business in Bangalore, which started essentially from scratch two years ago, and is expected to make about $25 Billion over the next five years. Nobody actually offered to pay VSNL a billion-dollar bribe (as far as I know :-), but if they'd done that, it looks like payback would have taken less than two years. Instead, we waited for telecom liberalization to be the politically correct thing to do, and VSNL's been rather slow about letting go of power, but they've gradually been letting go.

      They're not the only place with telecom monopolies maintaining the digital divide. Most countries have monopolies on radio broadcasting as well, and the combination of radio and telephone monopolies delayed the development of effective radio-based voice calling technology in the US by 40-50 years, and there are large parts of the world that have limited or expensive telephony because they're limited to wires. (Remember that the digital divide is partly about computing, but it's partly a voice communications divide as well.) Technologies like unlicensed 802.11 are just gradually leaking around it, and most practical VOIP was initially a better replacement for ham-radio phone-patch that was good enough for calling your cousin in Israel even if it wasn't good enough for business calls.

  • by jukal ( 523582 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @09:23AM (#4606738) Journal
    about Donating Time To Goodwill projects [] - which discussed possible future co-operation between UNITeS [] and Openchallenge [].

    Hopefully this will provide you all with a chance to contribute and help tackle the problems/tasks Kofi Annan stated:
    If all countries are to benefit, we need more and better strategic public-private partnerships. That is one of the primary functions of the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force, which brings together CEOs, government officials, nongovernmental organizations, technical experts and other information industry leaders.

  • by SailorBob ( 146385 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @09:37AM (#4606785) Homepage Journal
    Anan says, "Public tele-centers have been established in places as diverse as Egypt, Kazakhstan and Peru," and that "bridging the digital divide is not going to be easy. Too often, state monopolies charge exorbitant prices for the use of bandwidth. Governments need to do much more to create effective institutions and supportive regulatory frameworks that will attract foreign investment; more generally, they must also review their policies and arrangements to make sure they are not denying their people the opportunities offered by the digital revolution."

    I think this whole article misses the point. The problem in countries such as Egypt, Kazakhstan, Peru and other similar places is their lack of truely transparent constitutional democracy and a properly regulated free market, or anything even approaching it. Just look at our previous discussion on Panama []. Anan is pushing for treating the symptoms without addressing the root problem.

    If you want to solve the digital divide, stop supporting dictatorships and other corrupt third world governments. Of course, I can understand Anan not being able to address the real problem, being that said governments make up about 2/3rd's of the UN's member states.
    • by mks113 ( 208282 ) <[mks] [at] []> on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @09:55AM (#4606857) Homepage Journal
      Again, things aren't quite that easy. There are many elected dicators out there. I lived in Kenya for 16 years. The president, since 1976, has been routinely elected, and has drained millions, probably billions, into his personal wealth.

      Why does he keep getting elected? Because his party has lots of control. There has been an official opposition since 1992, but they have not been united enough to topple the president. Add to that that voters in rural areas hear little except how good the ruling party is, and they vote for the ruling party.

      What is needed to fix the issues?

      1) Leaders with vision. They have to be able to look beyond their own bank account.

      2) Education for the general population. Democracy has to be understood to work. If people are used to being told what to do, and they only hear it from one side, they will do that.

      2) Open communication with the people. Let them have the information to adequately decide for themselves.

      Hmmmmm. Now that I've stated this, I look south of the border (I'm Canadian) and think that Americans could really benefit from some of the same things. While information tends to be far more available, you have to be educated to look beyond the attacks shown as so-called informational TV ads.

      Democracy in an information society can be as simple as who spends the most money to "inform" voters. It can also be an excercise in groupthink. The general population in the US seems to think that an attack on Iraq is a good idea. Dissent isn't readily accepted in general conversation. Why listen to the world?

      So, the third world can learn a lot about democracy. I'm not sure that the US is the place to learn it from.

    • Democracy doesn't mean free markets - it means the people picking the politicians who run their governments, and ideally means that the people can tell the politicians what laws to make. That doesn't mean that you won't get bad laws - protectionism is really popular in much of the world, especially in countries with farmers or big industries. India's a democracy, but it's got heavily non-free markets. Australia's Telstra is no longer a total monopoly, and they don't have endemic corruption problems, but they're still technically clueless.
  • by PinchDuck ( 199974 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @09:45AM (#4606814)
    "places like India instead of combating absolute illiteracy and hunger, run out to make PDAs."

    And if the PDA's sell well, wealth is created, jobs are created, and illiteracy and hunger are combated. This without the intervention of the UN, the World Bank, the IMF, or any of the other institutions that the whiners of the planet like to condemn. The Evil Social Irresponsible PDA manufacturers pay taxes, which wind up in the coffers of the Indian government, which can then either a) spend it on programms to fight illiteracy and hunger; b) try to subsidize more development leading to job creation, or c) (most likely) squander it.
  • digital divide (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mshurpik ( 198339 )
    I forsee a world where computing technology will be considered dangerous to public safety. Since it can be used to invade bank accounts, model nuclear weapons, and copy Hollywood DVD's, all "consumer" computing solutions will be closed end-to-end systems, and only a select few companies will have access to source code and hardware API's.

    There will be a debate about whether individuals have a "right" to computing technology, much like the current debate over gun ownership. Of course, gun ownership is largely an urban/rural debate, but instead of simply establishing gun-free zones, the endless argument is about whether guns kill people or people do.

    And so it will be with computers. Since computers aren't mentioned anywhere in the US constitution, it will be all the easier for Congress to restrict and regulate consumer hardware sales to just bare-essential, low-performing models.

    Ridiculous? Well, in most states, you can't own a howitzer, and if you build a car it better be "street legal." Why do you think you have any more right to a desktop supercomputer?

    Already, encryption technologies are export-prohibited, and DRM looms not on the horizon, but in our faces. Currently, you can purchase an Intel chip and write your own operating system, but what happens when those chips are not for sale? It's not like you're going to build your own $20 billion fab.

    In my CS curriculum, the idea was broached that "mission critical" programmers should be licensed tradesmen. But will the transition to maturity in the computing field be guided by scientific guilds, or will computing become a secretive, heavily-restricted "military" technology?

    The third-world doesn't need computers. They, and all of us, need guaranteed access.
  • power supplies and clean water.

    Being literate wouldn't hurt either.

    In the third world countries that I have been to, the lack of power and fresh water add many hours of work to the day that inhibit things such as going to school, learning new things, without decent power there wil be nothing to "plug" anything digital into, not to mention little time to learn the device and its usefulness.

    I suppose a combination of a cheap electicity, unrestrictive laws (telephones are cheaper now in Nigeria now that cell phones have replaced Nitel)and an effort to combat the nastier effects of poverty are needed before we all get our old Pentiums ready to ship off.
    • Wrong. And you contradict yourself. Your cell phones example shows how a more modern technology is able to cripple down the prohibitive prices the telephone system had in Nigeria.

      It is not the lack of power and fresh water that inhibits new things. I know places on Earth that are a damn hell for human beings. Places where 90% of people cannot live as it is deadly freezing (-60C), water is a mess and power goes always with hickups (if it exists at all). However, people live there and make a good effort to live. Why? Because they are technocrats. And not because they have computers, PDA's or anything like that. An hammer there, can be a Hell of technological advance if one knows how, where, and what to hit. Specially when you have the truck stuck and it is the only chance to break the frost around it. But if you don't know how to use it, then you may break the truck and freeze to Hell in the middle of the taiga.

      The problem with poverty is not in the fact that people live badly. The problem is exactly in the technological divide. While you don't teach people to use its brains for every case and every tool, no matter it is Sahara, Amazonia, Rocky Mountains, Siberia or Mars they will not be able to fight for a better living. It is the technocratic thought that saves many cultures from the fate of its brothers and cousins in the world. While you will not break the conservatism and traditionalism among certain cultures, they will not be able to move further. They will keep burning tropical forests and dig holes by hand. And they will keep being poor and hungry because they don't know any other way to live and solve their problems.
  • by Ektanoor ( 9949 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @09:58AM (#4606869) Journal
    and places like India instead of combating absolute illiteracy and hunger, run out to make PDAs

    India has first to combat poverty, illiteracy, give food for its people, care to fight droughts, hurricanes and earthquakes, make peace with everyone else, and then make PDA's...

    However, I wonder how will India will do all this if it can't reach the technological frontier. On what basis will India fight its ills if they tell her not to make PDA's or similar technological achievements (aka not make good real money). That's the Banana Republic philosophy. You make bananas and you should fight your ills. And we keep making rockets, computers, PDA's and nukes. From time to time we send you a taste of our technocratic civilization so that you will not feel so bad with this "divide" between us. But you should stop altogether to make PDA's. Poverty and PDA's are incompatible. Do bananas as we like them while making PDA's.
    • by pamri ( 251945 )
      Very true. For one, you can't dedicate all resources to one problem & then move to the next. That's practically impossible. Secondly, the major factor that propelled India's success in the software arena was it's liberalisation programme. In a layman's words, the govt stopped screwing the business & hence encouraged the mild, talented & generally wary-of-the-bureaucracy middle-class men & women to become entrepreneurs.

      But however, their counterparts in the villages continued to getting screwed for as simple a thing as obtaining records of their own land, which they used to get after bribing the village head, upwards of 1000 Rs. & wait upto 1 year. Recently, bhoomi, a project of the karnataka govt., was introduced, which basically is a s/w which gives out the land records of a famer within 3 hrs & costs Rs.10.

  • Universal service (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 12013 ( 622026 )
    if i remember correctly for 'information society' classes. Digital divide is considered because of the 'universal access/universal service' idea. Kind of like we have on telephone service in the west (everybody has a phone, companies are not allowed to cut your incoming phonecalls even if you don't pay) The divide would now be that there is no 'universal access' yet so you have two classes of people. Throwing computers at them is just a quick and dirty solution (ok, it worked for phones but 'puters are more complex)
  • by snatchitup ( 466222 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @10:03AM (#4606890) Homepage Journal
    You can't pipe a bowl of rice down a T1 Line. I don't care what kind of bandwidth you have.

    Politics is the source of starvation and illiteracy.

    There's more than enough food, and bandwidth for every human being on Earth (though maybe not quite enough IP addresses, but that's what subnets and routers are for).

    Politics is keeping sacks of corn in a warehouse in Africa, the same corn I ate last night, but some politician told the African not to eat it because of genetic engineering. Though this is a small case compared to the politics of tribal wars in Africa.

    Politics is keeping loved ones from communicating with eachother around the world. I have no idea about Asia, though I don't think it's as bad there as in Africa. Pathetic! That's the best word for the politics coming "Out of Africa" (sic)... Pathetic. (not to mention ponderous).

    • Politics is keeping sacks of corn in a warehouse in Africa, the same corn I ate last night, but some politician told the African not to eat it because of genetic engineering. Though this is a small case compared to the politics of tribal wars in Africa.

      You ate it happily. Others do not wish to eat it (i.e. European consumers). Importing GM grain will inevitably result in contamination, and then Europe won't buy grain from them any more, because the consumers don't want it. End result - the African nation is poorer in future, and more likely to need further aid. This isn't an African politician being stupid, this is a politician thinking about the long term need for the country to produce exports (mostly because we keep demanding debt repayments).

  • I don't think the "Digital Divide" is a merely western concept. It is a catch-phrase that simply identifies the very real fact that technology gives massive competitve advantages in communication, data storage and retrieval, and process efficiency. It also recognizes that for those regions that have no or limited computing resources, the investments can be trivial given the benefits. Finally, the "divide" itself refers to the very real situation that as someone who has a computer and internet access, you are part of a group of people world wide who have fundamental benefits that others do not. Principally, the ability to participate in this larger community (and all of its resources) at all. If this doesn't sound like a big deal, I suggest you are taking it for granted.

    Some may say that it is misguided to pour money in to technology when more basic needs such as water and food have not been met. I say we should not underestimate the value of communications and technology in enabling conditions that would result in meeting such basic needs.

    Some may say that participation in the information systems culture requires reading and writing skills. But is this not an essential steps in closing the digital divide? A plan to move forward in this arena must contain this element as a part of that plan. Also, even the poorest communities will have representatives with such skills that can participate. If a leader has reading and writing skills but has much no effective means of communication with a broader audience, his leadership is undermined.

    This is a hard topic because it is hard to understand living in a place where there are no computers or networks available. How would our lives be different if we did not have the internet? What if we did not even have a computer? Think of the business you work in. What impact would that have on your business? Would your company be competitive? If you are in school, what would it be like to not have a computer to use as you do research and writing?
  • Nonsense! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quixote ( 154172 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @10:27AM (#4606998) Homepage Journal
    and places like India instead of combating absolute illiteracy and hunger, run out to make PDAs.

    "Knownsense" is buysy spouting nonsense. This stale old mantra of "don't do anything else, but work on illiteracy/poverty first" is getting pretty tiresome.

    Indians know how to combat illiteracy. There are states in India (Kerala) where the literacy rate is 100% (or as close to that as you can get). In other words, the literacy rate of Kerala is higher than Kansas. Checkout this article [] to read more.

    The problem here is that of suburban kids who have barely seen the world trying to "fix" it. Before you suggest any "fixes", spend a few years in a "poor" part of the world and see what the real issues are, and not what CNN/ABC/NBC/CBS tell you they are.

    As far as the PDAs in India are concerned, don't you that the designers (i.e. Indians), who are much closer to the targetted consumers than you are, may (just may) have a better idea of the needs of the villagers over there?

    • Re:Nonsense! (Score:2, Insightful)

      IAI (I am an indian). We have a professor whose philosophy inspired (still inspires!) me a lot. He said if you want india to develop, go and invent something. Every thing automatically follows. Innovation leads to development of any nation.
    • Re:Nonsense! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fthomas64 ( 473342 )
      Perfectly said! Thank god someone said it (btw, I'm a Keralite)! True poverty and illiteracy are terrible problems, but the odd idea so many westerners (and some easterners) have is that Indians are clueless how to fix it... they are clueless how to build or use a computer... that someone needs to teach them how to do anything for themselves.

      India is
      1). An ancient culture
      2). A modern (and the world's largest) democracy that is struggling towards full and total openness (and it WILL get there, it's a matter of time)
      3). The world's largest middle class
      4). Soon to be the world's largest software engineering home

      The people who are getting MS and PhD's (and among the educated, there is a much higher emphasis on doing so than there is in the US) are going to be the engines of the Indian economy... and that's the only way we can solve our problems (and do it by ourselves, which is all-important).
  • The problem with this concept of the Digital Divide is that it is too much like providing trucks without also providing things to carry in them. Sure, providing IT infrastructure is a good thing, but it is meaningless without a job for that infrastructure to perform. I agree that the pat answer "focus on food and poverty first" is an oversimplification, but what concerns me more is what value they get out of the IT should they be provided with it.

    An example: I gather, and I'm not a doctor, that there are some easy methods of curing dystentry. Nevertheless, people still die from it. This is presumably because they don't have access to information about how to cure it. So, if we provide them with a computer hooked up to the internet, will a small village in Ethiopia suddenly cure the problem? They can, but only if they a) think to look online, b) know how to find it, c) find the information in a format that is useful to them, and d) are able to trust that information. Can they do that at the moment? Possibly, but I doubt they can easily.

    And yes, I'm aware that the content will follow the infrastructure. But the question remains - if we want to get information to people, are we better off focusing on high-end IT solutions, such as WiFi, or on low-end solutions, like the provision of pedal-radios with skilled medical advice on the other end? I would be inclined to figure out what kinds of information are required, and look for the simplest and best methods of getting that information to the people who need it, before we start looking at bridging the digital divide.

    btw, I am aware of good work currently being conducted (including by people whom I work with) into what role IT can play in developing countries. It isn't as if the IT world is ignorant of this issue. And it is even mentioned in the article. But the tendancy is still to focus on high-end solutions to problems that I believe should (IMHO), at least initially, be handled in a manner that better suits the situation.

    Of course, I'm always open to being convinced otherwise.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Beating the West (U.S) at the technology race is the only chance the Third-World has to break out of it's economic dependence.
  • by Compulawyer ( 318018 ) on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @10:48AM (#4607520)
    I think it is time for all world leaders to take a crash course in the basics. Someone needs to drill Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs [] into their heads. Take care of the IMPORTANT things first - First, food, potable water, and clean air. Second, shelter, personal safety and security. When those things are addressed, not only will the world be a MUCH better place, the other things will be easier to address as well. I for one am sick of hearing about a "digital divide" when people are starving and still being victimized by crime.
    • First of all, crime is biggest in the USA. As far as i have experienced abroad whilst travelling in 3rd world countries, "poor" people dont commit the crimes you expect them too. If at all. In fact, despite the poverty, they have richness of other things: community, family, honor all sorts of things that keep this crime from being commited.

      That said, yes, in these same countries I am speaking of, crime rates are rising. As far as I have experienced, its coming on the coatails of "free-trade" IE, the glut of Western products that have the same effect that they do here. Making people feel inadequte for what they dont have. Its a powerful force, getting more and more powerful each day. Yesterday's election results were a huge shot in the arm the ability of business to wrestle its way into every corner of the globe, and for the Military to neutralize anyone who does not want to go along with the 'program'.

      So with all that, I have spent a good amount of time in Nepal, a country which is considered one of the poorest in the world. Its a pretty confusing place. People dont have the "Hierarchy of Needs" to sustain even the basic health of its people. Yet young people, fueled by all sorts of Western images of prosperity, dont give a flying fuck that the water has human shit floating in it. They want a walkman, some Britney Spears CD's, cool sunglasses, a leather jacket, and a place to play pool. There is *no* stopping it. The older more tradional people cant believe what is happening, but the young people, while still staying very loyal to family, are embracing these things due to our prompting (and of course other Western countries, and China).

      I am actually working on a business plan based on bringing Open Source software labs and training to Tibetan settlments in the High Himalaya. There are far better things I can do for sure, but I also see the value in catching some of these young people, empowering them by giving them some "western" stuff, but with Open Source, they have the ability to make something of their own, hence retaining some pride in their own culture, instead of alinging to a Western company.

      Believe it or not, Microsoft has already been investing heavily in projects over in that region attempting to get people trained in Microsoft products. We all know what the end of that will be. More cheap labor making those PHP shopping carts for stupid companies in the US.

      Point is, even tho what you are saying is valid, as I write this business plan, I struggle with those ideas every single day. But the fact is, there is a juggernaut of force behind this, and Tibetan kids walk around rejecting the Dalai Lama in favor of bad ass sunglasses, and Titanic T-Shirts.
      • I think you either missed my point of don't understand the Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow's Hierarchy is not a western/US concept - it applies to ALL people and is a way of describing the basic needs of being human. The structure is a pyramid with upper layers supported by lower ones. The lower layers relate to "basic" needs. You cannot begin to address upper layers until the lower layers are in place.

        For example, if you are starving, i.e., deprived of the basic need for food, will you care of your computer has 512 Mb of RAM vs. 1 Gb? I think you won't even care if you HAVE a computer - you are focused on obtaining food. The same goes for other basic needs like water and oxygen. At the next level, are needs like clothing, shelter, and safety.

        The point is, you need to fully address basic needs before you can get people to focus on "needs" (used in the psychological sense - most of the upper level things can be called "wants") that are at upper levels. So, after this long-winded diatribe, my point is that leaders should be working to ensure that basic needs like food, water, clean air, clothing, shelter, and safety are addressed before fooling around with "digital divides." If there is a juggernaut that is interfering with that, then leaders must either fight the juggernaut or ensure that the basic needs are met first so that the juggernaut does not detract from efforts to satisfy those basic needs. From what I see, neither is really happening.

  • Nothing will be done to alleviate poverty, pain and suffering for as long as the bourgeois will be in power.

    The primitive mindset of the bourgeois is solely based on greed, selfishness and rejection of whatever is different, and therefore not conductive to social progress.

  • There is nothing wrong with India going after manufacturing PDAs. It is not that government is going after that stuff only. Illiteracy and hunger are also addressed.

    Problem solving should never be sequential. India can't wait to have hunger/illiteracy problems solved first and then go into high tech stuff. If country has to develop, it has to progress on all fronts.

  • Koffi Annan can't actually do anything to fix anything. So let's invent a new problem and make it someone else's to fix.
  • Well, only on slashdot can one hear someone berate a country for building industry, employment, and prosperity `instead' of combatting hunger and illiteracy.

    Go figure.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson