fms351-L12-reading01 - t l l 2O0 Part 3 Access Introduction...

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2O0 Part 3: Access Introduction There can be no doubt that the world exists in a state of staggering inequaliry. The United Nations reports some sobering statistics: the world's richest 500 individuals have a combined income greater thanthat of the poorest 476 m1ll|on; the 2.5 bil1ion people living on less than $2 a day account for 5 per cent of global income while the richest 10 per cent account for 54 per cent.Within individual countries, whether rich or poor, similar inequalities persist; inequaliry in both the USA and the UK is significantly greater than in Albania or Ethiopia (UNDB 2005,pp.4,55). Not surprisingly, these general material inequalities are reflected in levels of access to technologies.While in Sweden and the UK in 2004,for example, there were mor€ mobile phones than people, in Mozambique just 3.7 per cent of the population had one; in North America, 62 per cent of people had lnternet access compared with 2.6 per cent in Africa (ITU, 2005). The Wbrld Summit on the Information Society flfr'Sls), convened under the auspices of the United Nations, noted at its first meeting in 2003 that: The benefits of the information technology revolution are today unevenly distributed between the developed and developing countries and within societies.'We are fully committed to turning this digital divide into a digital opportunity for ail, particularly for those who risk being left behind and being further marginalized The rapid progress ofthese technologies opens completely new opportunities to attain higher levels of development. The capaciry of these technologies to reduce many traditional obstacles, especially those of time and distance, for the first time in history makes it possible to use the potential of these technologies for the benefit of millions of people in all corners of the world. (WSIS,2003, p-2) In many countries governments seek to overcome this division by providing access to, for example, Internet-connected computers in public libraries.
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ChaDter 12: Access Denied' 2Ol While it is hard to imagine anyone arguing against opening up ICT access to all, the suggestion that a more equitable exposure to new communications technologies will lead to a reduction in inequalities more generally depends on a number of assumptions, firstly about an understanding of the term 'equality' and secondly about the role of technology in society. At an instinctive level, we may feel we know what an egalitarian sociery would look like, but in fact we probably know better what an unequal society looks like. Gross disparities in material wealth and possessions have been documented above; further, most would acknowledge the unequal nature of the barriers to acquiring wealth faced between those born into the poorest families in even the wealthiest nations and those growing up in families that are readily able to afford to pay for the best schools and healthcare.
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