Given that the Internet is the “… mother of all technological revolutions …”, how can we address the needs of the digitally divided?
To paraphrase a saying attributed to philosopher George Santayana (1863 – 1952), those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past, are bound to repeat them.

You may disagree with that sentiment but human history is riddled with examples that support it.  For example, the mistakes in the British attempt to control the distant and new colony of America, were repeated by the Americans in Vietnam, in Afghanistan and again now in Iraq.

In our more recent history, we eventually learned lessons about the risks associated with new technologies such as leaded petrol, PCBs and mad cow disease.  But only after some people were harmed.

Must we now allow harm to come to more people when developing and applying our newest technologies?

To make the leap from the American Civil War, through technology-induced health issues, to broadband, is a long bow to draw.

But it is true to say that we do not know the impacts of that new technologies like nano tech, like robotics and high speed broadband will wrought.

I do not suggest that high speed broadband is likely to cause physical injury to people.   But given the enduring harm caused to so many in the Industrial Revolution, understanding what happened there is central to avoid causing harm in the Broadband Revolution.

That harm was manifest through changes in the economic and social lives of individuals and families.

The Industrial Revolution changed the organisation of work – from home-based small scale industries to centralised, large factories employing many people.  Today, we look back and cringe that factory work at that time did not respect worker’s health or safety, paid women much less than men for the same work, and put children to work.

We would not do anything similar today would we?

As Mark Twain observed, history does not repeat, it rhymes.  So whilst we would not again get children working in factories, we are on track to seriously and thoughtlessly, damage other sectors of society.

For example, the poor, the elderly and people in rural areas who are on the wrong side of the digital divide and are becoming relatively disadvantaged in our burgeoning broadband society.

"Firmin Baes - Doux rêves" by Firmin Baes - Art Renewal Center. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Firmin_Baes_-_Doux_r%C3%AAves.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Firmin_Baes_-_Doux_r%C3%AAves.jpg

“Firmin Baes – Doux rêves” by Firmin Baes – Art Renewal Center. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Firmin_Baes_-_Doux_r%C3%AAves.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Firmin_Baes_-_Doux_r%C3%AAves.jpg

Given that the Internet is the “… mother of all technological revolutions …”, how can we address the needs of the digitally divided?

One way is to appoint someone, a ‘Digital Champion” in my language, to represent the interests of people and not corporations.  Someone, with political influence, who can look for those past rhymes and so assess the liabilities, opportunities, and risk inherent in digital technologies.

In the coming election, which political party has announced policy that directly addresses that need?

The Internet Party have not.  They talk being a digital leader, not having one.  They talk about the very things that reflect and entrench the status quo, the things that enhance what their leadership has.  Or had.

Which makes them strange bedfellows for the Mana Party which does not address the broadband revolution at all.

Labour wants to “elevate ICT to the highest level of government.”   Their means to achieve that is to establish the position of Chief Technology Officer, reporting direct to the Prime Minister and Cabinet.  The Green Party have a similar policy.

National are dismissive of the idea with Steven Joyce saying that New Zealand did not need another “Taxpayer-funded busybody” telling people what to do.

On this single issue, Labour and the Green’s get my ICT leadership vote.

In the run up to the elections, I will explore other aspects of ICT policy positions from the perspective of individuals.

 

“Firmin Baes – Doux rêves” by Firmin Baes – Art Renewal Center. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Firmin_Baes_-_Doux_r%C3%AAves.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Firmin_Baes_-_Doux_r%C3%AAves.jpg