In all the emphasis on technology, we cannot lose sight of the fact that technology is only as good as the education of the people who use it. While its definitely true that improved access to technology will bring up skills in a population, there are signs from across the world that technology can be used to carry through with sinister motives.
The recent outbreak of tribal violence in Kenya saw shocking use of SMS text messaging by people as a tool of violence. You can find the audio stream on the page with the NPR story.
To find online hate, you do not have to go as far as Africa.Right here in Fiji, the Fishy Times discussion boards are inundated with racial hate-speech on a daily basis. In another country, this would be a matter of grave concern. But, because this is Fiji, racial stereotyping and vilification remain part of the public discourse. No one from the moderator of the forum to the publisher of the newspaper has the courage to tackle this ignorance.
Much of Fiji’s blogosphere, heralded as online outposts of free-speech and democracy activism is made up of hate speech racial invective. The general attitude toward seems to be that it is ‘healthy venting’.
So, then why push for technology? Generally stated, technology usage raises the education level of individuals and it teaches problem-solving skills. Developing the right kinds of curriculum (utilizing existing web resources, since a country has little money to pour into such efforts) and bringing the focus on things like improving literacy, math skills, health awareness, entrepreneurship, etc. has to be in place to ensure that internet usage in Fiji brings more of the positive benefits we associate with technology.
A great example of how the internet can be used to deliver education content (particularly beneficial in rural education settings) is this online game from Disney. Funded and developed as a join program between a non-profit working on entrepreneurship education and Disney, the game lets children learn the skills that go into developing and running a business. The motivation for the creation of the game:
Hot Shot Business was launched in May 2003 following a Kauffman Foundation study that found that 41 percent of kids ages 9 to 12 would like to start their own business, but don’t know how.
You can read more about this effort here.
Technology is all about giving people access to information. Whether they use it in a positive or negative way, depends largely on how good of a job we do in providing education.