While mapping organizations on Google Earth, I got a bit distracted and found myself zoomed in somewhere deep in Amazonia. I followed a dirt road through the jungle to a tiny village miles and miles from any other civilization. It occurred to me how strange it was that I could sit at my computer in India and get a visual on the dwellings of people in Brazil who probably had never even seen a computer. What sort of insane privilege do I have that makes such a thing possible? I am a bit reluctant to say it, but the similarities are unavoidable, the vantage point of Google Earth is almost God-like, being able to look down on people from afar and see, not just their immediate surrounding, but being able to zoom out and see their relative smallness in the greater environment that they may never even fathom. I don’t mean to be condescending, rather I am merely pointing out the absurdity that is the digital gap within the human race.
This brings up an array of ethical questions, a few of which pertain to blogging. How many of us blog, with words and pictures, about people who have no idea what a computer does, much less what a blog is? I was considering blogging about a friend that doesn’t speak English, doesn’t use the Internet, doesn’t have a Facebook page, and certainly doesn’t know the first thing about the blogosphere. Even if I showed him my blog and had it translated for him, he still wouldn’t be able to grasp the idea of that information being on the World Wide Web (a term that is misleading in itself.) Is it fair that there is personal information about people in place that is so far removed from their accessibility?
The digital gap has arisen as a serious barrier in my work. As we are finally starting to do field work with young people for Ashoka India’s Youth and Children Initiative, we are naturally taking the path of least resistance and starting with college students. After all, they are accessible, educated, networked, and going through a phase of progressive thinking and questioning. Perhaps even more importantly, they have cell phones and e-mail addresses, making it easy for us to contact them and for them to use our on-line resources. They are ripe for the changemaking movement. Unfortunately, only about 11% of Indian youth will finish college. As our vision calls for an Everyone a Changemaker™ world, we can hardly be true to the vision while leaving out 89% of the youth population. The exclusivity gets even worse if we limit our outreach to modern avenues of communication; less than 10% of Indians have access to the internet, and half don’t even have telephones. These are all barriers that the Youth and Children Team has been aware of while creating our model. We are clear that we intend to reach across the digital and educational gap, and create changemaking opportunities for all young people. However, this hurdle remains daunting. How can we get people to answer the call of changemaking if they don’t even have phones? It’s like trying to get kids to learn how to read when they don’t even fit inside the school.
Lastly, I would just like to share an interesting fact. Did you know that 92.4% of all statistics are made up on the spot? So please, double check the numbers we are using here. I’m sure the Internet would have accurate stats.