"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

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wSaturday, March 23, 2002

DIVIDE THIS!: Robert Samuelson has provided an invaluable public service by finally, publicly and definitively driving a stake through all this talk of a "digital divide" - the idea that a fixed disparity of access to computers and the Internet is creating a new caste of well paid digital "haves" and poorly compensated digital "have nots" – in the current Newsweek.

With his characteristic understated style (see my review of his most recent book here) Samuelson declares the divide "largely fiction" and proceeds to demonstrate why this is so: falling technology prices have made computers and Internet access more affordable for the lower middle class who are quickly closing any gap between them and their betters; new user friendliness of programs have made it less difficult for those of intermediate intelligence to operate computers; the effects of computer training on wages and productivity have - surprise! - been overstated.

His conclusion: "[Proponents of] the 'digital divide' suggested a simple solution (computers) for a complex problem (poverty). With more computer access, the poor could escape their lot. But computers never were the source of anyone’s poverty and, as for escaping, what people do for themselves matters more than what technology can do for them."


posted by Jeremy at 3:08 AM