Shifting sands globalization and digital equity ites midterm
SHIFTING SANDS: GLOBALIZATION AND DIGITAL EQUITY 1Running head: Shifting Sands: Globalization, Equity, and the Current State of the Digital Divide Shifting Sands: Globalization and Digital Equity Colleen M. Ites Iowa State University 4 March 2011
SHIFTING SANDS: GLOBALIZATION AND DIGITAL EQUITY 2 ABSTRACT Current views of globalization and its impact on digital equity have been hot-button topics for thelast decade. The publication of Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat in 2005 took an issue that had previously been in the academic fields of education and economics and brought it to the American forefront. The fears of globalization as a method of removing the United States’ traditional worlddomination in the economic sector were directly and frankly confronted, as well as the role American education must fulfill to give future world citizens the best possible chances at future careers. Throughout the work Friedman argues that while a difficult process, acceptance of globalization would be a benefit for Americans overall. This article will address the optimistic ideals found in Friedman’s book by comparing it with other current research on theories surrounding the digital divide, globalization, the Western influence ondeveloping nations, and the social responsibilities of multinational corporations. Important questions addressed after an initial analysis of the review of literature will include the following: • What is the true definition of the digital divide and is this divide constant or changing? • To what extent are the ideas of globalization intertwined with corporate responsibility? Does that responsibility extend to workers in developing countries, and how should this responsibility be monitored or maintained on a global level? • How much of an influence should the Western world have in developing countries, as most of the digital growth has initiated in the West? • How does bridging the digital divide include those who are often on society’s fringes? Keywords: digital divide, globalization, digital equity, technology implementation
SHIFTING SANDS: GLOBALIZATION AND DIGITAL EQUITY 3 Shifting Sands: Globalization and Digital Equity INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY OF LITERATURE In this essay the author will compare the ideas found in Friedman’s work with alternativeideas on globalization and the digital divide, and explain possible ‘fixes’ for these complicatedissues. The issues of digital equity are addressed in James McShays chapter “Paulo Freire’sLiberatory Pedagogy: Rethinking Issues of Technology Access and Use in Education” where theauthor discusses the need for a shift from thinking about technology access and use towardthinking of technology as a form of Freire’s liberatory media, enabling repressed peoples thepotential for freedom and social change. Jill Jameson also draws on Freirean’s critical pedagogyas she analyzes attempts at addressing the digital divide in Zimbabwe while taking into accountthe country’s violent and impoverished past and present in her chapter “The Digital Abyss inZimbabwe.” Francesco Amoretti and Fortunato Musella in their chapter “Governing DigitalDivides: Power Structures and ICT Strategies in a Global Perspective” discuss the impactWestern ICT providers and growth has had on nations around the world and if the dependence ofdeveloping countries on Western ICT providers puts them as risk of becoming technologycolonies to the West. All chapters are found in International Exploration of Technology Equityand the Digital Divide, a collection of varying viewpoints and theories surrounding the conceptof digital equity edited by Patricia R. Leigh. The final works used in this article will give specific and detailed alternatives to the‘automatic promise’ of closing the digital divide found in Friedman’s work. In Paul C. Gorski’s“Insisting on Digital Equity: Reframing the Dominant Discourse on Multicultural Education andTechnology,” the author argues that the issues of digital inequities must be faced and addressed
SHIFTING SANDS: GLOBALIZATION AND DIGITAL EQUITY 4before the digital divide can be overcome. Don Fallis argues for the application of epistemicvalue theory to apply a value to knowledge learned through the implementation and use oftechnology in his article, “Epistemic Value Theory and the Digital Divide.” And finally, anexamination of the impact technology has had on the complex caste society found in India isfound in Elizabeth Langran’s article “Caste, Class, and IT in India.” All the resources above willbe examined and analyzed to determine if the digital divide is growing or closing.ANALYSIS AND CONCEPTUAL DISCUSSIONS While all these texts address various interpretations of the term “digital divide” there isno one steadfast definition for this concept. Friedman defines digital divide as the technologicaldifferences found between those who have access to and have embraced new and emergingcommunication and business technologies. He argues that the digital divide is shrinking is basedon the implementation of new technologies by specific sectors of societies in developingcountries and how those in these sectors are utilizing these new technologies to better their livesand the economic health of their country. He uses economic and industrial centers in India andChina to make his point: multinationals and home-grown companies developed methods ofoutsourcing and off-shoring that brought about the ‘flattening’ process Friedman espousesthroughout the book (Friedman, 2005 p. 126-151). Friedman’s definition is similar to the ‘accepted’ definition used by pundits and newsmedia all over the world, but new research on the topic intends to broaden and deepen thedefinition of an idea that seems simple but is actually quite complicated. McShay uses theFreire’s liberatory pedagogy to expand the definition from the access to and use of newtechnologies to addressing the actual technology as an agent of liberation and a catalyst for socialchange to disenfranchised peoples around the world (2010 p. 138). In this example the
SHIFTING SANDS: GLOBALIZATION AND DIGITAL EQUITY 5technology itself is a tool for providing educational and legal opportunities to those previouslyoverlooked in the new global economy, especially those of color, impoverished, or in a loweredsocial ranking. This idea of using the language surrounding technology advances as a guidepostfor state development in poor nations is groundbreaking and will require an entire new viewpointon the idea of the digital divide. The fear of developing a form of digital colonization by allowing Western information andtechnology companies (ICTs) to control diffusion of new technologies in developing countries iscovered in depth by Amoretti and Musella (2010 p.193). This article espouses that the attemptsto use ICT as a method of reducing the digital divide is in effect providing a greater resource tothe elites found in developing countries, therefore making the digital divide greater than before.This inequity between the educated elite and less-educated (usually rural) poor in such countriestakes into account how the digital divide is also a separation of social and democratic rights, andargues that gaps in funding and infrastructures in developing countries must be addressed beforethe digital divide can begin to close (Amoretti and Musella, 2010 pp. 196-198). Specific countries serve as excellent examples of the complex interactions between the digitaldivide and globalization. Zimbabwe is one of the poorest, most disorganized, and violentcountries in Africa today. Attempts at normalization and establishment of a democracyfollowing British colonial rule have been marred by the despot Mugabe, civil unrest, an epidemicof HIV/AIDS, and a lack of natural resources. These factors all contribute to Zimbabwe’scomplete lack of “ ‘network readiness’ in ICT … in comparison with (other) African countries… which have overtaken its capability amongst the ‘bottom 20’ “ nations in the 2008 - 2009Global Information Technology Report (GITR) (Jameson, 2010 p.115). This with other rankingaccounts leads Zimbabwe to the dubious title of “least developed nation in the world for ICT”
SHIFTING SANDS: GLOBALIZATION AND DIGITAL EQUITY 6(Jameson, 2010 p.117). These factors have also led Zimbabwe to become less informed andtherefore more isolated from the rest of the world; this generational lack of information has ledthe oppressed peoples to not strive for freedom but instead to become cogs in the machinery ofviolence and oppression. They oppressed fight instead to become the oppressors (Jameson, 2010pp. 123-125). While Jameson argues that Freire’s praxis for positive change could lead to agreater change in Zimbabwe, because of the country’s nearly complete disenfranchisement fromthe developed world, those who would institute this change must be dependent on other states tobegin to close the digital divide (2010 pp. 123-128). In this example, globalization has given upon Zimbabwe, as her own people have given up on her, people who have instead chosen tobecome displaced persons in search of skills to rebuild Zimbabwe. One issue not confronted inthe article was how those in power in Zimbabwe (often through bribes and illegal disbursementof funds) would potentially deal with these newly skilled citizens ‘upending the apple cart’ interms of power. As with every society, those who hold the power will rule the people. The greatattention to detail given every other aspect of this article makes the lack of attention given to thispotential threat disturbing. Gorski directly addresses the issued of the digital divide as hinging on the digitalinequities that are evident for all peoples on the fringes of societies. His proposal for continualmulticultural education is a combination of multicultural education and social reconstructionism.Gorski cautions educators to carefully consider if the implementation of new innovations willenrich and enable multicultural education or if it will create further inequalities between theadvantages and disadvantaged in American education. He also directs educators to dig deep intohonestly defining the multicultural education, the digital divide, access to technology, and digitalinequities (Gorski, 2008 pp.350-356).The issues that spoke most to me where how educators
SHIFTING SANDS: GLOBALIZATION AND DIGITAL EQUITY 7needs to create non-hostile digital cultures designed to be safe places of learning for allregardless of previous digital cultural norms. This addressed the issues of educating female,minority, and impoverished students in a way that was not even regarded by the Friedman text.The inclusion of these specific groups was a welcome addition to the current study of digitalinequities by displaying to educators specific areas of concern regarding implementation ofdigital innovations. Elizabeth Lungran addresses these same issues of digital inequities specific to India andutilizes comparisons to Thomas Friedmans’ The World Is Flat within her article. She argues thatproviding access without considering the issues of class, caste, and power will never allow forthe ultimate flattening of all in India. If technologies are implemented and a blind eye is turnedtoward these issues, the digital divide will continue to grow with the potential to result inpolitical instability and localized isolation of social groups already on the fringes of society(2011 pp.5-7). Lungran also touches on the specific needs of women in a society where genderissues abound. Finally, she addresses the issues specific to the caste system, class hierarchies,and the rising divide between the digerati and the common, poor Indian (2011 pp.7-12). In herconclusions Lungran agrees with Friedman regarding necessary improvements to the Indianschool system, removal of bureaucratic and academic barriers, and creation of a domestic marketfor software as the best ways to diffuse knowledge to the ‘have-nots’ of India. That being said,she did disagree with Friedman regarding the infusion of new capital back into the Indianeconomy: Lungran argues that these previous steps are necessary in order for change to occurwhile Friedman believes it is already occurring (2011 13-15; Friedman, 2005 pp.425, 479-482).A final common ground between Lungran and Freidman is in regards to corporateresponsibilities for multinational corporations. Friedman believes that multinationals need to
SHIFTING SANDS: GLOBALIZATION AND DIGITAL EQUITY 8offer workers a safe environment with adequate pay (2005 p, 425), and Lungran also believesthis to be true (2011 p.16). The final difference is regarding the moral value of globalization,where both give excellent factual supports for his and her points of view. These all comprise thecomplicated state of globalization and the digital divide today, as well as the potential solutionsto these problems. While many articles espouse theories on how to truly define the digital divide andimplement globalization effectively in developing countries, Don Fallis proposes the use of amathematic methodology epistemology value theory to measure the distribution of knowledgeand the value of access to information technology (2007 pp.30-31). This quantification ismeasurable once the distribution of knowledge regarding differing digital divide policies todetermine which (if any) are most effective based on the types of implementation and societiesencountered. He has two solid arguments comparing differing distributions of knowledge:utilitarian, with the maximized average amount of cumulative societal knowledge, egalitarian, anattempt to distribute knowledge equally to all members of society, Rawlsian, where inequitiesamong members of a society are accepted as long as those less informed receive the greatestincrease in knowledge (Fallis, 2007 31-35). While this scientific measurement of the distributionof new knowledge may seem like a guaranteed way to solve the digital divide, Fallis cautions thereader regarding acquirement of new knowledge harming previous social, religious, and culturalnorms is a raw reality in the flattening of the world as we know it (2007 pp.35-39). WhileFeinstein does address the changes that technology diffusion may bring to local communities andcultures, his positive spin on creating policies that honor these traditions while implementingnew technologies would require a scientific scaffold such as Fallis’ theory to establish aneffective implementation.
SHIFTING SANDS: GLOBALIZATION AND DIGITAL EQUITY 9CONCLUSION Each of these authors feels passionate about the impact of globalization and the digital divideon different cultures throughout the world. Overall Friedman’s book is perhaps too optimistic atthe long-term effects of globalization. This is seen in his minimal accounts of the negativeimpacts of new innovations on the cultural, local economic, and religious peoples of the world.When Friedman does address this issue, he tends to give examples of extremists, such as the riseof militant Islam and Al-Qaeda in the Middle East and Africa. This is a typical tactic ofFriedman’s regarding the darker side of globalization. While the book has a positive tone, hedoes slip in some of the more negative aspects, including the sometimes lack of corporateresponsibility in a globalized world (2005 pp. 151-166), while in the same breath extolling thevirtues of the same company. For example, he discusses how the Gates Foundation is amultinational that can be seen as controlling and rigid but that has done wonders for publichealth all over the world when wealthy nations would not step up to the challenge (2005pp.541-545). This process of partnering a negative aspect of globalization followed by a positiveone is an excellent way to slip bias past the reader to convince him or her to take a positive toneor spin away from the book. The chapters from Leigh’s book and the other articles do not use as much sugar-coatingas Friedman does. Instead, they often pick out specific cultural, gender, social, and economicissues upon which to build the research of and attitudes toward globalization and attempts atclosing the digital divide. These same articles require the reading to really look at the long-standing effects of globalization regarding digital equity and recommend that further research inthis field do the same.
SHIFTING SANDS: GLOBALIZATION AND DIGITAL EQUITY 10 Perhaps the greatest difference between Friedman and the other texts is how much timeFriedman spends explaining how all American schools need to change. McShay addresses theunique needs of multicultural education and Gorski discusses the need to revamp definitions andapplications of new technologies, but Friedman far and away has the deepest and broadestopinion on what is wrong in American education today. That being said, he offers many errorsand few solutions. The articles and chapters give more potential solutions to these issues as wellas others including the best ways to implement new technologies for specific groups and how toaddress unique student and societal needs in technology education. They also address thesomewhat uncomfortable issue of developing countries becoming dependent on wealthier onesfor assistance in implementing new technologies, creating a new form of digital colonialism. The awareness of how best to address these issues will be the guiding force for futureeducational technologists and researchers. Technologists then must use this awareness alongwith research results to make changes to the implementation, type, and dispersal of newinnovations to specific cultures and groups. Perhaps the best solution is to incorporate the Freierpedagogy toward innovation implementation or the application of epistemic value theory towardthe overall accumulation of knowledge. As the shifting sands of information and communicationtechnologies continue to evolve and expand, it will require a broad and deep analysis of what hasand has and has not worked, minus emotional bias, to help educational researchers determine thebest solutions in successfully overcoming the digital divide. The greater emphasis recentlyplaced on the complex interactions of culture, tradition, religion, SES, understanding andapplication of new technologies is a first step in the right direction.
SHIFTING SANDS: GLOBALIZATION AND DIGITAL EQUITY 11 REFERENCESAmoretti, F & Musella F. (2011). Power structures and ICT strategies in a global perspective. In P. R. Leigh (Ed.). International explorations of technology equity and the digital divide: Critical, historical, and social perspectives. Hershey. PA: IGI Global.Fallis, D. (2007). Epistemic value theory and the digital divide. In E. Rooksby & J. Weckert (Eds.) Information technology and social justice, pp. 29-46. Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing.Friedman, Thomas L. (2005). The world is flat. New York: Picador.Gorski, P. C. (2009). Insisting on digital equity: Reframing the dominant discourse on multicultural education and technology. Urban education, 44(3), pp. 348-364.Jameson, J. (2011). The digital abyss in Zimbabwe. In P. R. Leigh (Ed.). International explorations of technology equity and the digital divide: Critical, historical, and social perspectives. Hershey. PA: IGI Global.Langran, E. K. (2011). Caste, class, and IT in India. In P. R. Leigh (Ed.). International explorations of technology equity and the digital divide: Critical, historical, and social perspectives. Hershey. PA: IGI Global.McShay, J. C. (2011). Paulo Freires liberatory pedagogy: Rethinking issues of technology. In P. R. Leigh (Ed.). International explorations of technology equity and the digital divide: Critical, historical, and social perspectives. Hershey. PA: IGI Global.