The Internet is a rich resource. In the past decade, information design, the practice of presenting information in a way that fosters efficient and effective understanding of it and access to it, in the United States has progressed to a point where anyone with access to the Internet can immerse themselves in an educational rich dimension. However, the effectiveness in this progression is dependent on the information actually reaching the user. This past week in class, we read the International Telecommunication Union’s annual report that measured the information societies in 155 different countries across countries currently classified as developed, developing, and undeveloped. The report used three variables to create an index for ICT development: ICT use, ICT access, and ICT skills. Prior to reading this report, I had narrowly considered the impediments to ICT access to be solely physical, political, and economic- mainly what ICT use and ICT access encompass. However, having ICT skills as the third variable, allowed me to think about how important other, more social factors, like education is in the equation of ICT and development.
In reading the report, I was unimpressed by the United State’s ranking as 15th on the ICT Development Index (p. 21). The importance of lessening the digital divide here in the United States, especially here in New Orleans, has a greater implication now that I have taken education into account when thinking of ICT and development. The report holds that education is an important factor in a country’s ICT development, and consequently that ICT development and education is an important factor in the overall development of a country. That is why the intersection of ICT access and education is so significant.
There is a wealth of information available to the web user. Over the past decade, there has been a shift in the field of information design to create user interfaces that are simple and accessible, alleviating barriers to knowledge that have existed in the past. Web sites like TED talks and Khan Academy provide entry into a world of expert knowledge that would not have been commonly accessible to the majority of the population in years past. You no longer have to be accepted into ultra exclusive and expensive universities to have access to the quality of information that their students are exposed to. Models like Academic Earth and Stamford U allow classes from the world’s most prestigious colleges like Columbia, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Dartmouth, Harvard, NYU, Oxford, Princeton, Rice, UC Berkeley, and Yale to be accessed by anyone with Internet. In my opinion, the importance of providing such access to these academic resources, in way of ICT development, is greater today because of the growing amount of information that is now available through the Internet. These resources have the potential to enhance the quality of education available to the American person, contributing to a better-educated population and therefore, contributing to the development of the country it self.