It is Digital Divide

Nigerian students power up their OLPC laptops by inju.Talking about digital divide seems to be a popular trend. To increase internet penetration, engineers and technical experts develop OLPC. It’s not enough. We need people to spread and bring in skills and knowledge. However, you won’t realize what exactly digital divide is until you stand in the classroom in front of a groups of eager students, young and old. It’s not a phrase. It’s a reality.

Portnoy shares an experience he encountered last week, when he went to a country village in southern Taiwan with Project Puncar. He stood at the blackboard, writing an URL for students to copy and type themselves. After he finished, many kids and adults looked at the keyboard and were lost. Reminding by others, he realized he wrote the URL in lowercase, while English alphabets on the keyboard are capitalized. When students are struggling with recognizing alphabets, it would definitely need more time for them to catch up, or even bridge the digital divide.

It is a small thing, but it says so much. What we take for granted is truly a high barrier beyond reach to others. We need to do more in all ways to improve the situation. After all, we, writing and reading this blog, are the luxuriously lucky ones. Only when getting to the cliff of digital divide, can we try to understand how abysmal it is.

(I may be annoying, but I have to say this again. If you have a great idea with concrete plans to minimize digital divide, apply for Rising Voices Microgrants. The deadline is January 18, 2009.)

(credit: OLPC picture from inju’s album; )

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