View Thread > Development and the Internet > Architecture, Question 1 > you put it so well
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?
The tension between primary needs (food, shelter, healthcare) and infrastructure which can eventually support these basic needs, including Internet access, is a matter of finding the appropriate balance of long and short term goals for each location and country. I would not presume to know any one uniform answer. Part of that answer is a consideration of the values and culture of the country. Technology is NOT value neutral and there must be consideration of both the benefits and potential risks of technology introduction. So it is a matter of looking at the WHOLE system.
I agree with the direction Nancy is giving us. The importance of one Country's cultural and traditional values during the analysis of the Whole ICT system is vital. This will lead us to analyse and know the priorities of one Country and develop customized projects according to the people's information needs. It is a matter of how information is used rather than which technology is used to access the information.
There is unlikely to be a single set of cultural values for each country. The co-existance of pre- and postmodern cultures creates ambiguities and potential conflicts which are also ooportunities for a targeted engagement. I would support the need to analyse a diversity of information needs across a society and agree that the specific technology choices are a secondary issue.
I totally agree with what you say and you say it so well. Universal Access is a very lofty concept that represents a admirable notion, in some ways like eliminating world hunger. As a concept it does express an ideal state but in procticality it's not likely to be completed in our life time.
It also reminds me that an inbetween step would be to have universal access to telephone service. I also think of the freenets and would like to see resources go into providing for more of them to be started and networked to champion and form the infrastructure for Universal Access. All of this comes down to thinking globally and acting locally.
Priortisation of resource allocation will always be there. A balance has to be found. I agree Technology is not value neutral but some would argue that lack of access: to knowledge/information would widen the gap between the haves and have nots.But I wonder does it have to be Universal access at door step.Why can one not think in terms of access at say community centers/village hubs...
On a different vector, the contents of information and the gender e-inclusion are also important factors as the world civil society works towards"universal access"
Reacting to the comment on universal telephony as an intermediate step to universal data access: It's possible that universal data access will actually precede and enable universal telephony. While cellular telephony has vastly improved teledensity in many developing nations, many people (myself included) believe that voice over IP will be the key factor in making telephony accessible worldwide. That likely means that the two problems will get solved together... satellite and fixed broadband connections will provide IP connectivity, and phone applications will live on top of that phone layer.
The real question, in my mind, isn't the telephony question - it's the power question. The progress of solar power systems is glacial compared to the improvements in the telecom and data space. Universal electric service is still a long way off...
Also regarding the comment on universal telephony: This is an interesting idea to pursue. There are 2 senses of accessiblity. First is the sense of being deployed in some place (telephony is accessible in my home) . Second is the idea of once deployed whether or not people can use it (telephony has limited accessiblity for the deaf). Telephony, while it is not universally accesible in the first sense; it certainly is pretty close in the second sense.
Web browsing and email are of very limited accesibility (in the 2nd sense) to the illiterate.
IP telephony is one application of modern internetworking which is widely accessible (again 2nd sense). However, it is limited in the ways that it harnesses the power of this new communication medium, mainly being used for point to point voice communication. It is the voice version of email (imperfect analagy, but close).
In this context, please also consider the following:http://h2o.law.harvard.edu/viewThread.do?postId=2532#2532
The post and response here:http://h2o.law.harvard.edu/viewThread.do?postId=2584#2584
How do you consider the values and culture of a country?
How do you anticipate the changes to value and culture ...
Primary needs being met
Enabling travel and infrastructure support
Or universal access
might have on any given society? There are no bench marks, there are very few 'good' studies, there are only some guesses. Margaret Meade, and the other sociologists or anthropologist have studied and written about the effect of cultural collisions.
While I agree it is important to think of what effect any change in the balance would cause, I do not think we should stop and discuss the impossible(knowing the whole of a system).
On the idea of telephone access, I agree VOIP has the potential to eliminate the need for 'telephones', but I suspect that an increase use of satellites as IXP might also help reduce the problems system access. (Though satellites do on occassion fail, and land lines are more stable).