Approaches to Bridging the Multilateral Digital Divide

In class we discussed the various dimensions of the digital divide. It is not only defined as the vast differences in technological development between developed and developing countries. Many of us experience the digital divide when interacting with older family members, people who speak another language, or those from different levels of education. Personally, I’ve grown up with the digital divide. My parents grew up in a small town in Poland and moved to the States in their twenties. They never used computers in Poland and once they moved here, they only bought one because my elementary school education required it. Eventually, their jobs required it too, and consequently, my responsibilities began to add up. As a junior high tween, I was the most “tech savvy” in the house. When my dad needed to type up a contract for work, I typed up and formatted a word document that would have taken him hours. I can type fast, copy and paste and use the internet quickly, so they think I’m a genius.

In my experience with my parents, language is the most difficult barrier to cross, second to intrinsic obstacles like a lack of motivation, distrust of the technology and stubbornness. The primary language of the web is English. So how can we get more of the populations of developing nations (especially those non English-speaking) to trust new technologies, to realize that it’s helpful and essential to their economy and livelihoods? The Guardian posted an article today about how more creative measures are being taken in Africa to bridge the digital gap, like the use of “digital intermediaries,” a concept that makes a lot of sense to me. These intermediaries are local people, who help their communities “overcome barriers of illiteracy, innumeracy, and language to effectively reach the poor who are otherwise invisible and disconnected.” Read the full story here: Access to information: bridging the digital divide in Africa 

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3 responses to “Approaches to Bridging the Multilateral Digital Divide

  • cmahoney2014

    I have never heard of a program that tries to bridge the gap of “digital intermediaries” before, and I think it is in awesome idea. I think a lot of the time, we are just throwing completely new and intimidating technologies at people in the developing countries. We wonder why they are hesitant to try out these technologies, which we think would make their lives a lot easier. They have been living their whole lives without it, why would they want it now? The fact that this program uses local people is also very important. The people are more likely to trust and relate to locals, and they are able to explain in their own language how to operate the technologies, and how they can help their everyday life.

  • dthunell

    I am reminded of the Amazon kindle commercial that promotes they have a “real person” who can assist you immediately with any problems or questions. That technology could definitely be used in the situation you describe in breaching the digital gap for those whose cultures do not promote technology as much as ours or those born in non-English speaking countries.

    We mentioned google translate in class and while there are thousands of languages in the world, I think it is pretty impressive that they provide 64 different languages on their service. This link provides a cool video on how google translate works and some other interesting facts about language software. Hopefully, as more countries become integrated with technology, more languages will be provided on this and other services and the digital gap will be reduced by intermediaries.

    http://translate.google.com/about/intl/en_ALL/

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