Reducing the Digital Divide

Two things caught my eye that may help with reducing the digital divide.

The first is called Sakshat, announced by the Indian government as the worlds cheapest laptop, which some predict to sell for £7. (by the way Sakshat apparently means “before your eyes”). I have been a slight sceptic when it comes to these schemes in the past, simply because I think that those that have saved up £7 and are in the lower socio-economic bands will not necessarily spend that £7 on a computer, they may still have other considerations, however it will undoubtedly bring the prospect of computing and education to larger group of people and that’s no bad thing.

I think I mentioned before in my blogs that when I met Martin Bean (formerly of Microsoft and soon to be the Open University’s  new Vice Chancellor) he was calling out to us to explore global education provision for the X million programmers in India who would like proper training and accreditation but who are not able to receive that through traditional Indian Universities because there is not enough capacity to meet the demand. So extending the hand of education to free or low cost resources to large number would be a fair way for a University to widen participation without hurting (because additional volume makes up for low margins).

The second thing to catch my eye was Google’s latest toys including Latitude their new phone/map social gadget. Google made several announcements recently including offline for gmail and docs (as part of Google Apps). perhaps I’m banging the Google drum too much these days, many say they’re in line to be the next Microsoft. I however think that creating services to allow for people with poor bandwidth or connectivity and to provide services for large groups and through ‘ubiquitous’ methods and devices. This can only be a good thing and reduce the digital divide.

I’m particular keen to try out Latitude as it’s got incredible potential in my opinion for education, both in terms of ‘contextual awareness and enhancement’ and also the social and peer group interaction (like mini twitter streams amongst people who are geographically or otherwise connected to each other).  I’ll try it out and let you know.

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About willwoods
I'm Head of Learning and Teaching Technologies in the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University.

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