Abstract

The Global Challenge of Technological Disenfranchisement

As professionals in what we might be pleased to call the "technologically progressive nations", we have access to data systems and networks that are able to both manage and provide bits and bytes in quantities that just a few years ago were considered a dream of things to come. Indeed, there are many among us who doubtless consider their days a waste of waking hours if they aren't able to receive a daily dose of e-mail, or surf the Net. We have become so concerned about the information that we might receive that even while we sleep we employ computers and other information servants to stand on vigilant duty guarding precious data which are retrieved by fax and answering machines until we can once more join the active world.

This vast amount of accessible information, and the interaction it allows us with of our fellow man, in only moments of time and space, are mere key-stokes away from us in our offices, our homes, and even as we travel. And what of the data that is only waiting to be harvested? The field of information available covers such a breadth of knowledge in such diverse levels of interest that at times the deluge of facts presented for our consumption may seem more of a "a solution in search of a problem" rather than the means of bringing any inquiry to a successful conclusion.

However, this world of abundance - this seemingly unfettered access to information, this plethora of technology which obeys our slightest whim for entertainment, or work, or simply distraction - is not available to all who might wish to tap the resources which are just suspended in cyberspace waiting to be summoned. As strange as it may seem, to those who thrive on the acquisition of information, there exists, for lack of a better term, "emerging" nations, societies, and even neighborhoods which long to be ushered into the ranks of the technologically mature. They somehow seem destined to remain in a sort of perpetual simplistic childhood of technological innocence. Who are these groups? What is causing them to postpone their entrance into "technological adulthood"?

Once Marshall McLuhan promoted the notion that the flow of information would cause the breakdown of national boundaries, the blurring of cultural identity, the "detribalization" of society. However, McLuhan was only partially correct in his assumption that the flow of information would support his claim that the world will be detribalized. It has done something which we believe McLuhan never expected to happen: It didnít make our world larger, or bond communities closer together - it made the world a smaller, more select, place in which to live. It has created a world of the technological haves and have-nots. It has created a larger proportion of those who do not belong to the new global community than those that do.

This presentation will examine the causes for technological disenfranchisement. Examples will be shown of why there are disenfranchised members of every community regardless of their level of prosperity within that social environment.