WARSCHAUER Reconcept Digital Divide

WARSCHAUER Reconcept Digital Divide - Warschauer 1

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http://www.firstmonday.dk/issues/issue7_7/warschauer/ - author "Reconceptualizing the Digital Divide" by Mark Warschauer As the Bush administration takes steps to dismantle the digital divide initiatives of the Clinton-Gore era, those who advocate technology access programs must consider their lines of defense and the rationale for their views. Is the "digital divide" a useful construct as originally conceived? Or should the notion be broadened or reconceptualized toward a different framework for analyzing technology access and social inclusion? I argue that a reconceptualization is in order. I begin the discussion with three vignettes, and then I turn to models of access for social inclusion, drawing on discussions of literacy. A Slum "Hole in the Wall" In 2000, the Government of New Delhi, in collaboration with an information technology corporation, established a project, known as the "Hole-in-the-Wall" experiment, to provide computer access to the city's street children [ 1 ]. An outdoor five-station computer kiosk was set up in one of the poorest slums of New Delhi. Though the computers themselves were inside a booth, the monitors protruded through holes in the walls, as did specially designed joysticks and buttons that substituted for the computer mouse. Keyboards were not provided. The computers were connected to the Internet through dial-up access. A volunteer inside the booth helped keep the computers and Internet connections running. No teachers or instructors were provided, in line with the concept called minimally invasive education. The idea was to allow the children unfettered 24-hour access, and to learn at their own pace and speed, rather than tie them to the directives of adult organizers or instructors. According to reports, children who flocked to the site taught themselves basic computer operations. They worked out how to click and drag objects; select different menus; cut, copy, and paste; launch and use programs such as Microsoft Word and Paint; get on the Internet; and change the background "wallpaper". The program was hailed by researchers (e.g., Mitra, 1999) and government officials alike [ 2 ] as a ground-breaking project that offered a model for how to bring India's and the world's urban poor into the computer age. However, visits to the computer kiosk indicated a somewhat different reality. The Internet access was of little use since it seldom functioned. No special educational programs had been made available, and no special content was provided in Hindi, the only language the children knew. Children did learn to manipulate the joystick and buttons, but almost all their time was spent drawing with paint programs or playing computer games. 1
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WARSCHAUER Reconcept Digital Divide - Warschauer 1

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