Public access to the internet

… The major debate today revolves around “universalization” of access. Why is universalization so important? Researchers like Ernest Wilson worry that, in the absence of universal access, the rapid diffusion of the Internet into the organizations, cultures, and societies of industrialized nations may widen the multidimensional gap separating them from developing nations, exacerbating an already significant moral and practical problem [6]. Larry Press believes that the Internet’s flexible, low-cost communication may lead to improved economic productivity, education, health care, entertainment, awareness of the world, and quality of life in developing nations and pockets of poverty within nations, thus reducing disparity [7]. There are a number of barriers to universal access. While in most of North America and Western Europe, Internet penetration is very high and very nearly every citizen who wants to access the Net can do so, in many parts of the developing world, and in particular Sub Saharan Africa, only a small percent of the population can have access, even if the bandwidth is abysmally low and the cost forms a substantial fraction of one’s income. The numbers of computers, telephones, etc. per thousand inhabitants and the bandwidth in most of these countries are very low compared to the advanced countries and they are unevenly distributed [8]. It is to overcome this “digital divide” developing countries are pleading for the setting up of a Digital Solidarity Fund [9].

In many developing countries, efforts are being made to overcome the digital divide or the lack of technology by setting up community owned telecentres which gather and provide the information needed by the local people …

read all the rest of this long presentation by Subbiah Arunachalam, India, on digital opportunity.

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[6] Wilson, Ernest, Meeting the Challenges of Internet Inequality, OnTheInternet, Vol. 5, No. 6, November/December, 1999, pp. 26-30.

[7] Press, L., The Role of Networks in Developing Nations, Communications of the ACM, Vol. 39, No. 2, February 1996, pp. 23-29, http://som.csudh.edu/fac/lpress/devwins.htm;

[8] http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/statistics/;

[9] http://www.dsf-fsn.org/.

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