When mothers in a country die giving birth to their children because there is not enough medical assistance available; when children in a country die from easily curable diseases such as diarrhoea (contracted through polluted drinking water); when people in a country live in unhealthy slums (because they cannot afford a normal roof over their heads), then access to modern means of communication such as mobile phones and the Internet seems less important. But nothing could be further from the truth!

With computers and mobile phones, people can learn from each other's experiences; they can avoid repeating mistakes or missing out on important information. The use of modern communication tools keeps rural people informed of crop and mineral prices on the world market so that they can sell their products at a better price. The Internet can improve education by putting books online and thus making them available to a larger group of people. The Internet can keep local doctors up to date on medical developments.

Concrete examples
Better farming techniques by mobile and email in India
This small farmer in India was dependent on traders to sell his produce. He had no way of checking whether the prices he received for his agricultural products were real or not. Now he has a mobile phone. He can now call a contact person from his agricultural cooperative and check the prices on the world market. He has more modern means of communication that help him enormously: with the help of a computer he has access to knowledge about improved agricultural techniques. Thanks to these techniques, he can get better prices for his products on the market.

The Indian internet company n-Logue noticed that its customers hardly used ordinary e-mail (because most of them cannot write), but that instead e-mail pictures and increasingly also videos were used. Farmers' sick cattle can then be diagnosed remotely by a veterinarian.

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Wise lessons by mobile in Uganda
There are 5 million mobile phone users in Uganda and this number is growing every day. At the same time, many young people still know too little about AIDS and the disease causes many deaths. These two pieces of information gave Dutchman Bas Hoefman the idea of providing information by means of an AIDS quiz via SMS. A few years ago, the Text to Change project started in Mbarara and is still running. Participants who send back the right answers to questions about AIDS can win a mobile phone or credit. They can also get tested for AIDS for free.

A laptop for every child in Bolivia
Former President Morales of Bolivia joined the project 'One Laptop per Child' (OLPC). The aim is to provide all school children in Bolivia with a laptop. Laptops are relatively cheap. The computer uses little power (a wall socket is not necessary). The internet connection can be wireless, or the laptop can be connected to other PCs. In remote areas, a signal can be transmitted by satellite. Bolivia was not the first country to participate in the OLPC project. Several countries preceded Bolivia.

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Computer kiosks in India
Walking into the narrow alleys of Madangir, one does not expect advanced computer technology. Yet a small, red-painted kiosk hides just that. The kiosk contains a computer that can be operated via a narrow slot through which only children's hands can pass. As always, there are several children standing around the kiosk. A six-year-old boy demonstrates with lightning-fast clicks how the mouse works. A twelve-year-old girl explains that she prefers to use the MS Paint drawing programme and that she is now learning the English alphabet with an abc game. The parents of these children cannot read or write and the children themselves hardly go to school.

The unmanned kiosk offers children from the slum the opportunity to get acquainted with the Internet, MP3 files and computer games, a world they are hardly part of anymore. The kiosk shows that children are capable of learning how a computer and the Internet work without outside help. The start page was on msn.com, but in no time the children discovered websites they liked much more, especially disney.com.


A 14-year-old girl from the slum has been going to the kiosk every day for five years. By pressing buttons and watching what happens, she learns by doing. In this way, she can get an education for herself, which she cannot get in any other way.
Without knowing it, the children are participating in an extensive educational experiment. The small kiosk in Madangir helps to bridge the digital divide. There are already hundreds of computer kiosks in India. Companies like to sponsor these kiosks because they know that computers help people clamber out of poverty and because they know that ICT is an important tool for economic growth.


Questions

3) What do we mean by reducing the 'digital divide'?
4) We have given four concrete examples. Choose one that appeals most to you. Tell us why it appeals to you most. Then indicate with this example what it has to do with globalisation.
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