[LINK] Gates on technology for the poor
Tue, 31 Oct 2000 12:12:54 +1100
Jack Gilding wrote:
> I know its not fashioned to say favourable things on Link about Bill Gates
> and it would be very easy to lampoon his statement "Do people have a clear
> view of what it means to live on $1 a day?" but I thought Gates comments as
> reported in this article where quite a welcome breath of reality and
> perspective (although I have previously argued that 'the poor' need some
> access to technology and information as well as to health care and food and
> that they should be the ones that decide the balance).
It makes no sense at all to *contrast* "technology" with "health care
and literacy". While direct access to computers and communications
may not be practical or useful for most of those in need, those things
are damn important to those trying to provide health care or education.
"Do people have a clear view of what it means to live on $1 a day?"
And Gates does?!
Sure, the a computer isn't going to help someone who is hungry
an illiterate. But how about a computer with net access *for their
village* or for the peoples organisation providing health care there?
The idea that aid can only be directed at individuals, never at
communities, is crippling (part of a general US "individualism",
perhaps motivated by fear of "communism").
The fracturing of rural communities and families throughout the
developing world - with people moving to cities seeking work, leaving
others behind - and increasing mobility generally make communications
important even to the poorest. This is one factor behind such things
as the Grameen Bank mobile phone project in Bangladesh.
But Gates is in a problematic position. Given that the software he
wants people to use is proprietary and costs a fortune (hands up
everyone on Link who has a legal copy of Microsoft Office, bought
at retail prices with their own money and not by their workplace),
Microsoft is in a poor position to play a role in any "digital divide"
"I will admit that in our business forecast, we don't have a
significant percentage of our future growth even coming from
people who live on $3 a day."
for more rants of mine on this.