Fall-Winter 2002-2003

Pattern Discussion: Mobile ICT Laboratories for Disadvantaged Communities
by Grant Hearn

Problem: The lack of access to technology and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in particular is an acute problem known as the 'Digital Divide'. This problem is partly one of both resource and location but is also one in which the term 'digital' has two meanings, viz. digital technology (as opposed to analogue); and digital in the sense of numbers as they relate to mathematics, technology, and the sciences.

Discussion: Digital Divide solutions should focus on promoting: i) Greater awareness and experience of science and technology; ii) awareness, experience and understanding of ICT and its modern role; iii) career possibilities represented by pursuing knowledge and qualifications in science and technology; iv) awareness of the possibilities of participation in the electronic economy.

The two major contributing factor to the digital divide are lack of access to ICT's and the inability to afford them. Access to technology should include more than computers and connections. Many issues affect real access to technology, including community capacity, relevance, socio-cultural factors, local and macro-economic environments, gender issues, and political will. Without real access, people are unable to use and embrace technology to the extent that they can use it to improve their lives.

Solution: The provision of travelling ICT laboratories the operators of which are trained educators, could play a strong role in bringing the ICT mountain to the disempowered. Such a self-contained unit with its own power generation ability will allow many people to experience and learn about ICT's whether they are remotely located, or simply living in communities which are too poor to allow access otherwise.

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