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.
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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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.
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.