BOLD 2003: Development and the Internet
Welcome to Development and the Internet!
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Registrants for this series are from more than 90 countries and 40 US states and territories. We are very excited to have all of you participating with us.
This five-week online series, the latest of our BOLD series, will consider the many initiatives being undertaken, worldwide, to bridge the “Digital Divide”. We will aim to provide a basic conceptual framework of background information, readings and case studies derived from the personal experiences and projects of the staff, faculty and affiliates of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School. Modules will be led by Charles Nesson, Geoffrey Kirkman, Colin Maclay, Andrew McLaughlin, Jim Moore, Ethan Zuckerman, Diane Cabell and John Palfrey, co-coordinated by Wendy Koslow with Teaching Fellows Urs Gasser, Isabel Neto, Rebecca Brackley and Nandan Kamath (Head Teaching Fellow).
Each module will then be used as a platform for discussion and the sharing of information, opinions and personal experiences between and among participants. This process will often be facilitated and moderated by the Teaching Fellows. Participants will be able to select from different streams and levels of discussion based on their personal expertise and interest.
Conceptualizing the “Digital Divide”
Knowledge and Information are key drivers of human freedom, growth, well-being and progress. The Internet and other networked information technologies are capable of delivering this potential widely and effectively. They can help people listen, but can also help them speak and be heard.
Regardless of how “neutral” we may consider information technology networks to be, their ability to deliver the benefits of knowledge and information are cabined by the social, political and economic milieu they operate within. The benefits will likely be shared unequally – some countries will gain more than others; some individuals and groups within countries will gain more than others. Technology-haves gain rapidly while technology have-nots will be left behind. This reinforces, if not increases, the divides. This is the problem of the “digital divide”.
The digital divide operates unchecked in a world without intervention. Fortunately, our world is not one such. National governments, development agencies, inter- and non-governmental organisations, citizens groups and even individuals can take, and have taken, steps to positively influence the technology infrastructure and information environment.
Contemporary efforts aim to:
Such efforts improve the readiness of a political economy to gain from the benefits that information, and information and communication technologies have to offer and to share the benefits more widely and equitably.
What are the contours of the efforts we have mentioned above? What is their interplay? How do we choose, if we need to, between the appropriateness of various initiatives? What are the various hurdles that people seeking to change the status quo are faced with in the field and in officialdom? How do we design a plan of action sensitive to the needs and circumstances of a particular region or group? How do we determine what problems are worth dealing with using technology, and in what priority? These are some of the difficult questions that we will ask. We hope you will participate by sharing your experiences, opinions and thoughts.
Series structure and requirements
While knowledge of, or experience in, technology or development policy are not prerequisites, interest in these issues is. This is a chance to learn and share in an area where there is much to gain from pooling thoughts, and diverse experiences and expertise.
This series will run for 5 weeks from March 31, 2003. The entire series will take place online. There is no particular time at which readings or discussion is required and participants may complete these at their convenience in the course of the particular week. The series is free, and open for anyone to join and there is no commitment required that registrants will participate in all of the modules.
Each week, we will release one module online, with required and suggested readings to provide the necessary background to the subject under discussion. Participants will go through these readings and will then be provided a case study or a set of policy conundrums to discuss and dissect, on one of our online discussion boards.