SF2012:Digital Inclusion, Digital Divide and Free/Open Source Software

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Led by Dan Hastings of Americorps 4/6/12

Low-income people have different wants

  • Low-income people in some areas where there is a digital divide and they see others with expensive technology feel like they should have access to Microsoft laptops and OSes because that’s considered the best. (A la Seinfeld muffin top episode). They aren’t happy with open source / Linux / Libra Office.
  • But Linux is better to learn if you want to do CS as a profession.
  • In very poor countries where they don’t know what an iPhone is, they don’t care about the brand as much.
  • Needs a lot of marketing and education to get low-income people to adopt open source technology.

A big hurdle in access for all: How to get network support inexpensively. Examples of organizations that are addressing this:

  • BTOP: http://www2.ntia.doc.gov/
  • One Economy in NC
  • Book: “Developing mesh networks in developing countries for free”
  • ISPs in some countries control access absolutely, down to intercepting and reading email and determining whether or not it’s appropriate to forward it to the recipient
  • Wifi 101: Free internet access to East Palo Alto
  • Free Network Foundation

How can open source technology help people in very disadvantaged low-income areas that don’t have the internet?

  • Learning anything via rich video and audio input is key.
  • E.g., learn anything through YouTube in their own language that’s available without dependence on the internet.
  • There’s not likely to be an influencer in the community who knows Linux. More likely to be someone who knows Windows.
  • http://www.digitalliteracy.gov/about

Age differences:

  • Young kids don’t really use email
  • Young kids use Facebook as their main thing
  • Adults who are worried about security feel safer on Twitter than FB