Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Great Digital Divide Deception

A man much wiser than I had once said there are "liars, damned liars and statistics" and darnitall he was right. The term, 'Digital Divide' is an example of this.

In the US it is used to explain why whites are more likely to have computers in their homes than blacks are, based on the percentage of those in the home. According to the last census [and backed up by a few 'Think Tanks'], the numbers as far as 'market penetration' [I do not come up with this stuff, to quote Casey Stengel, you can look it up] show that 69% of the white population have PC's in the home vs. a little under 30% for those in black homes...or some figures coming close to that. As a result, many of the usual suspects have blamed this on racism, oppression and the other items on the liberal laundry list. However the 'divide' is really based on something a little more basic.

Culture. No not the bacteria that makes milk yogurt or turns other foods into a modern art masterpiece of germs. Culture in this case means what is accepted or acceptable among citizens in parts of the US. Now at the risk of angerring the few libersls who may still be reading this, fact is that the white population sees the computer and its ancillary parts as being a 'tool' or a utility item that a household cannot be without, like a toaster, microwave, dayplanner-as well as being something that will allow their children to stay in the game with their peers because the environment is competitive. HOWEVER, blacks [not all but there is this persistent attitude in parts of the population] see the computer as being another way that their children are bcoming 'white' [read the last sentence again and you will see what is meant] and would as a result lose their heritage and culture; that what it is connected to is 'evil' and is considered less of a utility as opposed to a big screen TV or entertainment items or even a pair of Air Jordans [a little extreme but you get the idea].

So it is not a divide that was created by some big, bad evil group of corporate presidents, but is rooted in what is 'valued'. Yep, it comes down to values and what one feels will help them in life as opposed to the other party. However this term does come up again because of what happened yesterday.

Let's give the folks at MIT their just due, because it takes a lot to get accepted into this school and some of the brightest minds in the country and the planet are educated within its halls. With that said, this idea makes about as much sense as a screendoor on a submarine or an outdoor ice hockey rink in Mexico City in the middle of summer.

In the picture of this 'device'this laptop it looks no different than a toy. An Etch-a-Sketch on green steriods. But what makes this concept to help others using this 'PC' so incredibly insane is that the operating system is going to be in 'linux'.

That's right folks, linux. Isn't that special, because this will not only add to the planned cost for the computer, but will bring about its own series of rather serious problems:

-Linux is not so much an operating system as it is a PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE and it would help to teach programming basics before even getting to the point of using this language.

-The PC iteself will use a crank to power it in case the electricity were to run out. Gee with all of the devices on this system, that crank had better be a real good one, or some of these folks may need spinach to spin it around enough to create the power for it to just even make a simple display. Speaking of which...

-It has a display that will fry in the sun. Did anyone connected with this understand that the type of screen that will be built into this will breakdown because of extreme heat? It is not like this is going to have any coolant being piped into the pixels.

Lastly, there is the plastic this is being made of. My oh my, how could anyone with a brain and a pulse not see that this will melt like the screen. After all this is not an Easy-Bake Oven [A toy by Kenner from the 60's, kids ask your parents about this one].

If these folks really want to bridge the divide, start with education. Start with the basics and do not hand a person a basically useless toy right away with the thinking that this is going to instantly cure the ills of the world. Remedying the problems of the planet takes time and a lot of effort, not a quick feel-good answer from a group of well meaning eggheads.

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