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January 05, 2006



What's really stupid about Lomas's sneer is that he dismisses what he imagines to be your position and then endorses what actually *is* your position - i.e. that the 'digital divide' is an aspect of social exclusion, not a phenomenon in its own right. (Of course, he then denies that there's any such thing as social exclusion, meaning that there's no such thing as the 'digital divide' either. After all, poor people can always walk to work - and if they haven't got any work, they won't have so far to walk, will they? Problem solved!)

(And "Minister for IT"! That's an old press release from 1988, surely...)

But please don't tar all libertarians with the ASI brush. Some of them (or us) are libertarian socialists, who really hate the way the word has been hijacked by the privatise-the-world brigade - and some of the privatisers argue a lot more intelligently than Lomas. (Then there's the fact that the ASI has done rather well out of the current government, which is hardly libertarian under any definition.)

Jack Hughes

I have tried to read your IPPR report and its too stodgy.

You need to spend more time with real people and less time with leftist policy wonks.

Where is your evidence for a "divide" rather than just a sliding scale ? Some people are richer than others, some feel more connected to society, others less. Many ordinary people feel very bitter about all kinds of things a lot of the time - this shows a racism, road rage, or just incivility.

The whole "digital divide" thing just sounds like Marie Antoinette - "let them have broadband". If you want to re-distribute wealth then just give poor people cash and let them buy what they want.

Will Davies

For god's sake, what's wrong with you people???

Read this carefully: I AGREE WITH YOU

Bill's column - from where i imagine you found my blog - also says

For some people, including the social theorist Will Davies, the "digital divide" is not a real issue, and the focus on getting people connected, or providing them with hardware, is just a way of misrepresenting what really matters - ensuring that everyone has fair access to the necessities of life in the networked world and overcoming wider problems of social exclusion.

What is it exactly that you take issue with here??

Jack Hughes

OK OK - I surrender !

Bill keeps on every 6 weeks or so dragging up his "digital divide" thang on the beeb site. That is what has pished me off - he never offers any evidence of a "divide" - like two groups of people on different sides of a river.

But back to your IPPR report - why not have a word with your boss and ask if you are allowed to use bullet points, summaries, maybe some graphs or diagrams or even a few pictures. I found it very hard going - in fact I gave up so I do not know what it actually is trying to say. ;-)


"..ensuring that everyone has fair access to the necessities of life in the networked world and overcoming wider problems of social exclusion."

These are two very distinct issues, one which describes the "digital divide" (albeit poorly as the issue transcends the "networked world") and the other which describes the much older and much more profound condition societies have nurtured for as long as there has been "intelligent" life on it ... and before.

The pressing issue that leads to any discussion of the "digital divide" is the increasing distance from the availability of the "necessities of life" for those who are not already wired.

For a moment, let's call it "representation" instead of "technology". I believe there was a bit of a scuffle some years back between us Yanks and you Brits regarding that topic. Any demographic without representation becomes rather impotent in the shaping of the forces that affect their environment. No telephone? Sorry, can't call your Congressman. No internet access? Sorry, can't comment on this article.

The logistics of getting a means of representation into the hands of those who do not have the luxury of choosing to access it must be resolved or the gulf, "divide" if you will, will continue to grow wider and more dificult to bridge as time compresses for the "haves" and expands for the "have-nots".

It's true that it is a huge task, but diminishing its importance by relegating it to a "concept" and lumping it in with an historical social separation does nothing to accomplish it. "A journey of a thousand miles ..." etc.

Are you reprinting this article and showering it over the lands of the have-nots in the form of cuniform-enscribed leaflets?

Unless you are, then you are unlikely to hear from the "have-nots" on this issue, and I suspect glad of it.

Will Davies

I should point out that the quote you refer to is Bill's summation of my argument, rather than anything I myself wrote.

I agree with you up to a point, and your's is certainly a more sophisticated approach than the 'digital inclusion' lobby generally puts forward (which tends to be a thinly veiled PR campaign for the broadband industry). But I'm concerned that we might lose perspective by becoming too focused on technology. If one were to write a list of all that is currently wrong with American democracy, surely 'unequal access to the internet' would come in at around number 75, several dozen places below 'naked corruption of elected representatives by key donors', 'archaic laws used to keep certain minority groups away from the polling booths', 'the electoral college system', 'lack of voting rights for residents of Washington DC' etc etc...

Why should any medium ever be universally available? Why should a democracy prioritise one medium over all others? The priority of television in American politics, which has reduced it to a cross between a beauty pageant and a boxing match, is hardly a great precedent for placing any single medium at the heart of public life. Different people express themselves differently in different media, and prefer to receive information via different ones too.

The internet is no more essential to public life than radio. Only the American imperialism which launched it in the 90s as a gift to all humanity, has stopped us from recognising this at the outset.


Really beautiful response, Mr. Davies. Thank you.

I have now read the manifesto four times, and here is my comment:

The perspectives and proposals (in direction, at least) in the document are admirable. As you state above, "I'm concerned that we might lose perspective by becoming too focused on technology." ... a snippet which, I think, sums up the spirit of the document by highlighting the inherent problems with working within the traditional bureaucracy while being somewhat bound to the resources it is capable of providing.

I don't know enough about the British system to comment intelligently about the feasibility of the proposals, but I believe I can recognize the pattern of its fabric.

I sincerely appreciate your bold attempts at being fair-handed, Mr. Davies. It's a guideline for a framework that may help shape the priorities of a society in what I see as a positive direction.

As we say over here; the "McFish of the Day" gets all of the orders. (Okay ... we don't say that, but maybe now we will.)

You're probably right about the Internet's rank in the all-time most-necessary public availability list, however I'd like to postulate that the most daunting challenge in bridging the 'divide' comes from the speed at which technology is advancing as compared to most of the Top 40 on the list. We need to learn how to be able to do other things until the investment required drops low enough for the world to catch up. We need to let the market absorb the R&D costs and the volatile swings while we focus on older, less exciting avenues of relief until tech stabilizes a bit.

I'm comforted by the notion that the historically explosive growth of the electronic sector will likely result in a more transparently technologically-infused global population, with a much lower entry barrier, resulting in greater representation and greater opportunity for motivated people.

(ohmygoodness ... sorry about that! :)

Thank you for the document and for the discussion. They are quite gratifying tools.

Oh ... yeah .. about the imperialism. Seems to be going pretty well, barring the occasional bleat from the Internations.
See y'all on the Verisign Network! ;)

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