DIGITAL AMERICA

Tag: human rights


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The Digital Divide, or a Digital Abyss?

// Posted by on 04/23/2014 (11:34 PM)

A map showing internet connections around the world. Source.

The digital divide is the inequality of access to, as well as use of or even knowledge of, information and communication technologies. This divide is usually based in socioeconomic inequality,… Read more

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A map showing internet connections around the world. Source.

The digital divide is the inequality of access to, as well as use of or even knowledge of, information and communication technologies. This divide is usually based in socioeconomic inequality, but can also stem from other factors such as location. This divide can be recognized not only on a national level within a single country, but on a global level as well.

The term “Digital Divide” implies a problem within itself: there is a divide, an inequality, in access to digital technology. My research problem is to explore this divide more thoroughly with three main questions. 1) How much of an obstacle does the divide pose? 2) Should digital access be considered a basic human right? 3) Can the divide be solved/lessened? The main argument I’m focusing on is the question of whether or not digital access should be considered a basic human right, which I am arguing it should be.

On a human level, the digital divide looks like a single mother of 3 trying to find a job to provide for her family, but with little access or knowledge of computer, cannot apply to most positions because they require online applications. It looks like an intelligent 17 year old from a less developed neighborhood whose high school never taught her any form of computer literacy and who now has little confidence in moving on to higher education. It looks like an immigrant who doesn’t know he can call his family for free. The digital divide can manifest itself in an individual being unable to afford technology, them not knowing how to use technology, or them just not realizing the benefits of technology.

With nearly 7 billion people in the world, only about 30% of those people have ever even touched a computer before. The majority of the people who are digitally connected are concentrated in North America and Europe, well developed nations both socially and economically. This is a huge discrepancy in the representation of a global population within technology.

A map of connections around the world. Source.

If you zoom in on the issue of the digital divide within the scope of the United States, only 57% of individuals with an income less than $30,000 use internet, 80% with an income of $30,000-49,999, 86% with an income of $50,000-74,999, and 95% with an income of $75,000 or more. Again, there is an obvious gap in access to technology.

With my blog, I am exploring the who, what, where, when, how and why of the digital divide: what the digital divide even is, who it affects, where it is an issue, how long it has been and will continue to be an issue, how it can be solved, and why the digital divide even matters.

The majority of the information I have found so far is openly biased toward the idea of technology and access to the internet as a basic human right, which has been convenient since that is what the blog in general is advocating for. But it has been much more difficult to find resources that defend the opposing viewpoint, which is definitely something I want to include in my blog. I feel like an argument is not fully presented until it explores both the pros and the cons, so I still have some further research to do. But for the most part I want phase 2 of my blog to focus on potential ways to close the digital divide and testimonies as to why it is so important. For example, these two TedTalk videos give interesting perspectives on where the solution to the digital divide can be taken:

To keep up with my exploration, you can follow my blog at www.DAdivided.wordpress.com


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The Roadmap to Universal Broadband

// Posted by on 04/22/2014 (12:36 AM)

The Above image show a map of the United States and the speed at which internet access is available. This map represent the theme of final project, the search for Universal Broadband and the end of the Digital Divide.… Read more

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The Above image show a map of the United States and the speed at which internet access is available. This map represent the theme of final project, the search for Universal Broadband and the end of the Digital Divide.

For my final project I initial proposed research regarding the concept of Internet access as a human right. As I began researching, the issue developed into current interactions between the United States Government and the many multi-national corporations that provide broadband services to millions of Americans. My project started to turn towards this direction when I read about all of the different actions that are in plan to end the Digital Divide.

 

The Digital Divide is the separation between those who have access to Internet, and therefore information, and those who don’t. While I original believed that this divide occurred mainly due to individual’s inability to pay for Internet service, upon further research I realized that the problem was also caused by the lack on Internet infrastructure in many rural areas of the United States. Upon discovering this issue I began to research the multiple different actions plans that currently exist.

 

I was able to breakdown the focus of my research in United States government policy on broadband, the private sector plan, and Non-governmental organizations that are working to end the digital divide. Currently, my research can be found on alliedeering.tumblr.com. This tumblr is my currently workspace, but I plan to organize my research into a more clear presentation upon my finalization.

 

Some examples of the multiple different plans I have discovered to end the digital divide include that of the Federal Commission of Communication within the United States Government. Their National Broadband Plan is an action plan to provide broadband infrastructure to all areas of the United States. This plan seeks to create a “high-performance America” by improving innovation, investment, and inclusion in Internet services for the Citizens. Their goals include

  • At least 100 million U.S. homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits per second.
  • The United States should lead the world in mobile innovation, with the fastest and most extensive wireless networks of any nation.
  • Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose.
  • Every American community should have affordable access to at least 1 gigabit per second broadband service to anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals and government buildings.
  • To ensure the safety of the American people, every first responder should have access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable broadband public safety network.
  •  To ensure that America leads in the clean energy economy, every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption.

 

While these goals are comprehensive and aggressive what is missing from the action plan is means to achieve these goals and the budget that is required to enact all this change. This is where the cooperation between the public sector and private sector comes into play. Similar issues as this was dealt with in the 1980’s with the expansion of the home phone network. The field of telecommunications has changed dramatically over the past 50 years, and as we move into the future will continue to change.

 

This is simply a preview of the type of research I am currently doing in exploring whose responsibility it is to provide the United States with this service, that we as a society as deemed essential. As I move forward I plan to further track the impact that the United States, the telecommunication industry, and Non-governmental organizations have made in finding a social for the digital divide.

 

My questions I would like to ask the class revolve around the concept of responsibility and commodity. As the Internet becomes further ingrained into our daily lives, will be call for the transition from private sector management to public sector? Do you think the government should provide Internet access? Subsidize it? Require private companies to provide access to rural areas? These questions amongst others are in the survey posted below. Please fill out my survey tomorrow, in hopes of helping me along my journey to discover that path that America should embark on in hopes of closing the digital divide.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WZMGD3W

 


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Computers in the classroom: Problematic or progressive?

// Posted by on 03/03/2014 (12:22 AM)

 

Before reading the article “The digital Divide Is Still Leaving Americans Behind”, I always thought of the digital divide more so as a distinction between age gaps and computer literacy, not so much by socioeconomic status.  The numbers speak… Read more

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Before reading the article “The digital Divide Is Still Leaving Americans Behind”, I always thought of the digital divide more so as a distinction between age gaps and computer literacy, not so much by socioeconomic status.  The numbers speak to the fact that America is indeed a nation digitized.  What is most concerning is the impact internet availability and usage is having on the political and social side of America.  Interestingly, the initial concept of the internet was created as a medium of unity, free of any hierarchy, however today it is now only further perpetuating the very things it intended not to, including a nation deeply separated according to socioeconomic standings. With jobs and college applications almost exclusively available online, homework assignments, news mediums and even healthcare, the need to be plugged seems to be more important now then ever. Susan Crawford telecommunications expert and former white house official even goes as far as to saying that fast and reliable internet is a basic human right. The digitization of America and this new dichotomy seems to only further disadvantage the ones who need help the most.  Do you think  the Internet should be considered a basic human right? Or do you think this is going to far? Do you think this is a “poor persons” problem? The markets problem? or rather a problem for society as a whole?

 

I also found it alarming that some middle and high school teens didn’t know what Times New Roman font was or how to save a word document, but can still maneuver their way through twitter and other social media sites. By giving students “smart phones” in hopes that it will be used to further education may sound good in theory, however I think can be problematic then anticipated.  Incorporating too much technology into education is a slippery slope, especially into social media, technology obsessed generations. I find it interesting that our generation specifically is targeted for being technology “junkies” and often criticized for being glued to our devices, but what do people expect, when we are basically required to be plugged in to function in society? I realize that incorporating technology into the classroom is just the evolution of education, attempting to adapt to the times, however I think it is beginning to take on to large of a role.  Ipads have replaced notebooks, “smartboards” have replaced blackboard and chalk, and “blogging” and other online resources are often required aspects of our curriculum, posing the question is society trying to keep up with us or are we trying to keep up with society? I think it is incredibly important to have technology play a role in education, but I do think it we are getting further and further away from some of the fundamentals of education, creating a whole new playing field, at the expense of poor, lower class Americans. Do you think technology has too large a role in education? Do you think this a good thing or a bad thing?

 


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Digital America: knowledge is power

// Posted by on 02/21/2014 (4:46 PM)

Samantha Dalaí López

The internet being relatively new is rapidly becoming a political ground where the absence of physical frontiers allows the spread of data at incredibly fast rates. The appearance of organizations such as Wikileaks… Read more

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Samantha Dalaí López

The internet being relatively new is rapidly becoming a political ground where the absence of physical frontiers allows the spread of data at incredibly fast rates. The appearance of organizations such as Wikileaks where people can share information that otherwise would be kept secret by the governments and institutions that control it all is a necessity. Why are things kept in secret in the first place? Well, because the government doesn’t want you to know what they’re doing to say it briefly. They say that it’s because then national security would be threatened but when you look at the information that they don’t want the public to know it becomes obvious that rather than being issues of security they are issues of politic and economic interest.  Whistleblowers, wikileaks and this information sharing centers, have uncovered many documents that report of the abuses committed by the governments which include human right violations such as the conditions at Guantanamo bay facilities, civilian deaths at Afghanistan and other places where U.S. has deployed military forces, the reports also include environmental crimes and economic corruption such as the practices that lead to Iceland’s bankruptcy and NSA’s illegal practices and overspendings. Of course this is to name a few, but obviously knowing this does not threaten ‘national security’ but instead reveals the abusive acts committed by governments.

 If the civilians cannot know what their governments are doing and if they knew and wouldn’t approve then there’s something wrong. Government is acting against the will of their people.

One of the questions that arises from this unjustified secrecy and lack of transparency on part of the government is, whose interests are they acting for?  Some of the organizations vouching for dismantling Wikileaks include banks and credit card companies…. That means economic entities that in no way should be that linked to government issues.

This is one side of the issue, the lack of transparency on part of the governments, but the exact opposite happens on part of the civilians. The NSA and the government in general have total access to civilian information. One of the recent leaks revealed how the U.S. government has access to a grand part of online information.  This is rather unjust, they won’t give away information but are capable of saving every single conversation on the internet, organize them, search for keywords and then spy on you because your conversation topics aren’t of their pleasure.  I’m not saying that they’re doing that to everyone, but they have the ability to do so and in my opinion that represents a threat on liberty and freedom of speech.  I believe that discussing ideas and sharing them with others that think the same way is a way of organizing but with governments watching over there’s no real freedom. There’s also the issue that the internet does not belong to a country, so the NSA can spy all over the world and not be stopped because they contract non-government companies (to whom they pay a lot) to do so. Recently it was confirmed that the US government spies on other governments which caused anger on part of many presidents and governments, so the threat is real. So civilians can’t know this information but entities outside of the government can do so and use the information in their favor. On the bright side, this is how information gets to us by whistleblowers.

I believe that the inequality on access to information is the main problem with this issue, while governments and secret organizations have all the information (and hence the power to use it for their own benefit), civilians have zero access to it, are being spied on and have no real liberty of organization or action. For example the boycott of wikileaks from these huge organizations like banks is an abuse and simply means that they don’t think people deserve to know what is really happening in the world, power is concentrated in a few hands and they’re not willing to give it over a bit.

 I believe in transparency and freedom, governments and their actions should be subjected to the will of the citizens and serve their interests.  If there’s any form of censorship on the internet and access to information it’s as if they were blindfolding and ignoring us. On the other hand I believe in privacy, the government shouldn’t know all what their citizens do because as an institution it has a lot of power that could be used against the individuals that don’t conform and this threat diminishes freedom of action and speech. In conclusion, the internet giving us access to information and the opportunity to organize ourselves offers a great weapon against the abuses of power. All of us should be watching over the powerful not the other way around.


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