View Thread > Development and the Internet > Architecture, Question 1 > "Occidental"?
First listen to Andrew’s argument regarding the digital divide. (Or read the transcript.)
Then read the ITUs “Istanbul Declaration” from the World Telecommunication Development Conference 2002.
What are your views on the “universal access” debate? Is connecting everyone to the Internet a pressing and immediate priority, especially in developing countries? What are the other legitimate competing concerns that we ought to consider? Are the benefits of achieving universal access worth the costs?
First, I must say I am quite new to the "digital divide" issue. This said, I believe we must be prudent. We have made mistakes in the past and we are likely to make others. Connecting everyone cannot be an absolute priority. I believe problem resolution must be assessed from many grounds, connectivity seeming a promising one. I am particularly interested in the side effects such as cooperative behavior, required for building the networks, lowering the cost of many initiatives by building links of trust bewtween communities.
Regarding the costs, it seems imperative that all developements be sustainable. We must not forget that the occidental lifestyle seems to pose serious threats to our environement and that globalising this way of life might not be the best for our planet. This put aside, I believe that the cost of helping developing countries is generaly worth it, if not essential, on the long term.
I'm not sure I understand your response - and "occidential lifestyle" is something I haven't heard of before ;)
Your choice of words in 'globalising this way of life' is interesting here. One of my colleagues once noted that the 'revolution' that is supposedly being offered by information and communication technology (ICT) has a great deal of similarities between the the movement that saw the steam engine and the 'Cape to Cairo' railway as the answer to achieving prosperity in Africa. Instead of bringing prosperity, the railway served as a perfect method of extracting Africa's raw material riches from the continent and oppressing its people. The question is whether technology will follow the same path. Is the excitement and hype being generated around new technologies merely a result of the saturation of markets in developed nations and a look towards the developing world as the next prime market? If so, ICTs will create yet another dependency - perhaps the most dangerous one yet.
My optimism about new technology, however, comes from how it emerged as a new *value* system, rather than a new pathway to riches. The Internet movement was based on what Lawrence Lessig calls a democratic 'code' or system of governance. Even though Lessig is pessimistic about how long the code or architecture of the Internet will favour this free and open system, current initiatives - such as the free and open software movement in Africa - may offer some promise for a future that is different.