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Posts in category 'Digital divide'

26 November 2006

Participatory media and the pedagogy of civic participation

Howard Rheingold
Participatory Media And The Pedagogy Of Civic Participation – The Transformation Of Education And Democracy: A Presentation by Howard Rheingold

“Participatory media is changing the way we communicate, engage with media and each other and even our approaches to teaching and learning.”

“The generation of digital natives – those that have grown up immersed in digital media – take all of this for granted. There is nothing strange, new or even transformative about the interactive, participative landscape of blogging, social networking and Web 2.0 Read/Write media for them. This is the very starting point, the background canvas on which they live their lives.”

“The promise of participatory media is a democratic media, and a media that strengthens our democratic rights in concrete terms. Howard Rheingold has written extensively about the very real uses people have put mobile and digital media to in fighting street level battles over concrete issues. In his 2002 bestseller Smart Mobs, he writes about the ways that these technologies have been put to use in online collaboration, direct political action and the lives of young people across the planet.”

“But can the use of these emergent socially networked technologies transcend entertainment and personal expression, and push us forward towards an engaged, empowered democracy?”

In his recent lecture The Pedagogy of Civic Participation, which took place in the 3D virtual world Second Life on the NMC Campus, Howard Rheingold asks this very question.

In this special feature, which was published on the blog of Rome, Italy-based Robin Good, Good has divided Howard Rheingold’s presentation into several audio files, and brought together the key points and questions discussed. You can listen to the original verbal presentation delivered for each key point or browse through the summary notes he has posted next to each.

Rheingold’s lecture was part of the MacArthur Foundation‘s series on Digital Media and Learning, a ”five-year, $50 million digital media and learning initiative to help determine how digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play, socialise and participate in civic life.”

Read full story

3 November 2006

Waking up to a surveillance society

Surveillance
The UK Information Commissioner launched yesterday a public debate on the implications of living in a surveillance society and published a detailed report on the issue.

The report, entitled “A surveillance society”, looks at surveillance in 2006 and projects forward ten years to 2016. It describes a surveillance society as one where technology is extensively and routinely used to track and record our activities and movements. This includes systematic tracking and recording of travel and use of public services, automated use of CCTV, analysis of buying habits and financial transactions, and the work-place monitoring of telephone calls, email and internet use. This can often be in ways which are invisible or not obvious to ordinary individuals as they are watched and monitored, and the report shows how pervasive surveillance looks set to accelerate in the years to come.

Richard Thomas said: “Two years ago I warned that we were in danger of sleepwalking into a surveillance society. Today I fear that we are in fact waking up to a surveillance society that is already all around us. surveillance activities can be well-intentioned and bring benefits. They may be necessary or desirable – for example to fight terrorism and serious crime, to improve entitlement and access to public and private services, and to improve healthcare. But unseen, uncontrolled or excessive surveillance can foster a climate of suspicion and undermine trust.”

The report provides glimpses of life in a surveillance society in 2016, including how:

  • Shoppers will be scanned as they enter stores, their clothes recognised through unique RFID tags embedded in them. This will be matched with loyalty card data to affect the way they are treated as they do their shopping, with some given preferential treatment over others
  • Cars linked to global satellite navigation systems which will provide the quickest route to avoid current congestion, automatically debit the mileage charge from bank accounts and allow police to monitor the speed of all cars and to track selected cars more closely
  • Employees will be subject to biometric and psychometric tests plus lifestyle profiles with diagnostic health tests common place. Jobs are refused to those who are seen as a health risk or don’t submit to the tests. Staff benefit packages are drawn up depending upon any perceived future health problems that may affect their productivity.
  • Schools will introduce card systems to allow parents to monitor what their children eat, their attendance, record of achievement and drug test results
  • Facial recognition systems will be used to monitor our movements using tiny cameras embedded in lampposts and in walls, with “friendly flying eyes in the sky” (unmanned aerial vehicles) keeping an eye on us from above
  • Older people will feel more isolated as sensors and cameras in their home provide reassurance to their families who know they are safe therefore pay fewer family visits.
  • Prosperous individuals will start to use personal information management services to monitor their ‘data shadow’ to make sure they are not disadvantaged by any of the vast quantities of information held about them being wrong or out of date. Others without the resources do this will be forced to stand on the other side of a new ‘digital divide’.

- Go to report download page
– Articles from The Guardian and BBC News

In a related story, The Guardian reports that according to experts “the internet will hold so much digital data in five years that it will be possible to find out what an individual was doing at a specific time and place”.

“Nigel Gilbert, a professor heading a Royal Academy of Engineering study into surveillance, said people would be able to sit down and type into Google ‘what was a particular individual doing at 2.30 yesterday and would get an answer’.”

“The answer would come from a range of data, for instance video recordings or databanks which store readings from electronic chips. Such chips embedded in people’s clothes could track their movements. He told a privacy conference the internet would be capable of holding huge amounts of data very cheaply and patterns of information could be extracted very quickly. “Everything can be recorded for ever,” he said.”

Read full story

26 October 2006

The Economist on mobile telephony and banking

Wizzit
“Most South Africans do not have bank accounts. But most do have mobile phones,” writes The Economist today in a story about mobile telephony and banking with a particular focus on Africa.

“About half a million South Africans now use their mobile phones as a bank. Besides sending money to relatives and paying for goods, they can check balances, buy mobile airtime and settle utility bills. Traditional banks offer mobile banking as an added service to existing customers, most of whom are quite well off. But Wizzit (an innovative provider of financial services), and to some extent First National Bank (FNB) and MTN Banking (a joint venture between Standard Bank and a mobile-phone network), are chasing another market: the 16m South Africans, over half of the adult population, with no bank account. Significantly, 30% of these people do have mobile phones. Wizzit hired and trained over 2,000 unemployed people, known as Wizzkids, to drum up business. It worked: eight out of ten Wizzit customers previously had no bank account and had never used an ATM. […]”

“In most of Africa, meanwhile, only a fraction of people have bank accounts—but there is huge demand for cheap and convenient ways to send money and buy prepaid services such as airtime. Many Africans, having skipped landlines and jumped to mobiles, already use prepaid airtime as a way of transferring money. They could now leap from a world of cash to cellular banking. […]”

“The technology remains clunky in some cases, with downloads requiring dozens of text messages. Several rival platforms are still in the fight, but so far those that emphasise simplicity and ease-of-use over state-of-the-art technology and security have made the greatest strides.”

Read full story

10 October 2006

Jakob Nielsen on getting more users to contribute

90-9-1 rule
A few months ago I wrote about a Guardian article indicating that “if you get a group of 100 people online then one will create content, 10 will ‘interact’ with it (commenting or offering improvements) and the other 89 will just view it.”

Now Jakob Nielsen is looking at this phenomenon which he calls the “90-9-1 rule” and adds some interesting data (from Technorati, Wikipedia and Amazon). Reflecting on how the unrepresentativeness of contributions can cause problems, he suggests five ways to make participation a little less unequal:

  • Make it easier to contribute;
  • Make participation a side effect of something else they’re doing (e.g. buying);
  • Have users modify something, rather than create it from scratch;
  • Reward — but don’t over-reward — participants;
  • Promote quality contributors and contributions.

Read full story

8 September 2006

ThinkCycle: open collaborative design

ThinkCycle
ThinkCycle is an academic, non-profit initiative, developed and operated by a group of doctoral students at the MIT Media Laboratory, engaged in supporting distributed collaboration towards design challenges among underserved communities and the environment.

ThinkCycle seeks to create a culture of open-source design innovation, with ongoing collaboration among individuals, communities and organizations around the world. It provides a shared online space for designers, engineers, domain experts and stakeholders to discuss, exchange and construct ideas towards sustainable design solutions in critical problem domains.

Topics covered include health, education, energy, environment, community, global action and sustainable living.

(via Nik Baerten at Pantopicon)

9 August 2006

Britain’s digital tribes revealed [BBC]

Britain's digital tribes
Households in Britain can be classified into 23 “e-types” depending on their access to technology, say University College London researchers, as reported by the BBC.

E-types include mobile explorers, the e-committed and rational utilitarians. The 23 e-types are organised in eight overarching groups: the E-Ungaged, E-Marginalised, the Becoming Engaged, the E for Entertainment and Shopping, the E-Independents, the Instrumental E-Users, the E-Business Users and the E-Experts.

The researchers say the profiles could be used to inform future policies on access to digital technology.

Every postcode in Britain has been assigned a classification which people can check online to see if they agree with the researcher’s analysis.

“What really emerges is that almost all of the types have some interaction with technology,” said Professor Paul Longley, who led the study at UCL. “In a sense we are all digital now”.

The research, part of the Spatial Literacy initiative between UCL, Leicester and Nottingham Universities, aimed to build a comprehensive picture of access to digital technology in Britain.

- View 23 e-types
Download study (pdf, 1.54 mb, 48 pages)

1 August 2006

Digital diversity – the end game?

Digital diversity
David Gyimah, a video journalist and the director of the Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC), has written a thought-provoking article on the future of diversity in the rapidly developing world of the net and connected mobile devices.

“If the net becomes, as it is demonstrated, THE info source of the day, someone’s entitled to ask, ‘where did all the difference, diverse stuff go?’, asks David.

The article and two associated videos (part 1 and part 2) were prompted by an invitation for David to speak at a Developing Digital Diversity forum at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts where David was scheduled to speak about the Outernet and Game Theory.

The article is published on Morph, the online home of The Media Center Conversation, a global, cross-sector exploration of issues, trends, ideas and actions to build a better-informed society.

5 July 2006

Older people ‘missing out’ online [BBC]

Elderly online
Older people are missing out on critical services because they do not use the internet, a report says.

Just 28% of people over the age of 65 have home internet access, compared to a UK average of 57% of households.

As a result, pensioners cannot access government services as well as the most competitive deals on commercial goods.

The findings are part of a wider survey by a consumer panel at telecoms regulator Ofcom looking at the online access of marginalised groups.

The survey also looked at online use by disabled people and those living in rural areas.

Read full story

29 June 2006

Web accessibility soon mandatory in Europe? [CNet News]

Eu
The 34 EU member states on Wednesday signed up for the “Internet for all” action plan, designed to ensure that the most Web-disadvantaged groups can get online.

The EC has now pledged to increase broadband coverage across the continent to 90 percent by 2010. Rural areas are still underserved, according to the Commission, with about 60 percent penetration. Urban areas fare better and are already at the 90 percent mark.

The EC has also committed to putting new measures in place to halve exclusion rates in skills and digital literacy by 2010.

The Commission is studying the possible introduction of mandatory accessibility standards in public procurement, to be brought in by 2010. The EC is also considering legislation to improve e-accessibility.

According to recent research, 81 percent of Web sites in the United Kingdom are inaccessible to disabled people, while a separate report found that only 3 percent of European public-sector Web sites met W3C accessibility guidelines.

Read full story

(via Pathfinder)

7 June 2006

Eldy, an operating system for the elderly

Eldy desktop
The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reports that Eldy, an Italian non-profit organisation aimed at promoting computer skills and access to new technologies, is about to launch a version of the Linux operating system that has been conceived for those who have never accessed a pc before, and in particular those over 55 who have difficulties with understanding terms like “blog”, “chat”, “e-mail” and “url”.

“We are convinced that by creating an operating system with a usability aimed at those over 55 who access a pc for the first time, we can help reduce the digital divide, especially if we also develop some contents that stimulate the creativity of the users,” explain those in charge of the project.

The operating system can be installed (with a very simple installation procedure) on a regular pc or on specially developed hardware. Without being experts, users can navigate the internet, chat, make video calls, use e-mail, view movies and manage multimedia contents from photos to music to e-books. They will also have immediate access to the latest news, the weather forecast and to a simple word processing tool. The ease of use will also be manifest in the graphic design and the highly understandable language itself (e.g. “mail your letter” rather than “send your e-mail”).

The Linux distribution – based on “Slax” – can be downloaded for free. In the future the developers want to add software to their operating system allowing people to manage their healthcare bills, to write legally valid auto-declarations, to access particular services of the “post office online” and the “church online”, and to use e-commerce services.

1 June 2006

Nokia design director describes second stage of mobile communications

Moiaphoto2003small
This afternoon Nokia’s Design Director Marko Ahtisaari talked about “Mobile 2.0: Social Renaissance” at Reboot 8.0 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

In his talk, which is summarised by Nicolas Nova on Pasta & Vinegar, Ahtisaari described the second stage of mobile communication. The mobile industry today has a huge scale: it reached 2bn mobile subscribers today. Ahtisaari believes the next 2bn are very different, in terms of usage patterns and income. To him, there are seven challenges that can be opportunities.

Read full post

19 May 2006

At museums: invasion of the podcasts [New York Times]

Podcasts at museums
Audio tours are now being upended around the world by something eminently more portable, accessible and flexible: podcasting, the wildly popular practice of posting recordings online, so they can be heard through a computer or downloaded to tiny mobile devices like iPods and other MP3 players.

Museum podcasts — both do-it-yourself versions and those created by museums themselves — have taken off, changing the look and feel of audio tours at places ranging from the venerable, like the Met and the Victoria and Albert, to the virtually unknown, like the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Ind., and the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia near San Francisco.

The podcasts are making countless hours of recorded information — like curators’ comments, interviews with artists and scholars, and even interviews with the subjects of some artwork — widely available to people who have never visited, and may never visit, the museums that are making the recordings.

Read full story
(This is a permanent link to the article, accessible free of charge, via UserLand)

15 May 2006

Major usability and accessibility initiative launched in the UK [BBC]

it enables
The BBC news website reports on the e-inclusion charter, one of the key projects of the it enables consortium, which aims “to research the use of information and communication technology (ICT) by disabled people”.

The e-inclusion charter aims “to provide clear guidelines on how best to develop ICT working to ensure it includes and benefits disabled people”. It is based on the premise that “disabled and older people should have the same rights to participate in the Information Society as other citizens. Information and communication technology (ICT) such as personal computers, mobile phones and interactive TV should be tools that help overcome barriers they face in education, the workplace and social life.”

In the BBC article (excerpt below), the organisers stress that they are aiming at more than just increasing accessibility for disabled users, but want to promote usability improvements for everyone.

The consortium partners include the Alliance for Digital Inclusion (ADI), a pan-industry body focusing on the impact of information and communication technology on our society, with AOL UK, BT, Cisco Systems UK, IBM UK, Intel UK & Ireland, Microsoft UK and T-Mobile as its members, RNID, the Disabled Living Foundation, and the leading technology development consultancy Scientific Generics.

From the BBC story:

Technology firms are being targeted in a bid to make hardware and software easier to use for everyone.

The initiative, backed by disability charities and big firms like BT, aims to make hi-tech firms take usability more seriously.

They want to get companies thinking about how to make goods and services easy to use while design work is done.

Firms signing up will be expected to make big changes to all the things they do that customers encounter.

Despite the involvement of charities that try to raise awareness of accessibility issues, Guido Gybels, director of new technologies at the RNID, said the charter aimed to help everyone.

“We are not talking about small groups of people with specialist needs,” he said.

Instead, said Mr Gybels, the charter wanted to make companies apply accessibility and usability to everything they produce – no matter who buys it or uses it.

Read full story

4 May 2006

PsychNology, a journal on the relationship between humans and technology

PsychNology Journal
PsychNology Journal is an international, peer-reviewed, on-line journal interested in investigating the relationship between humans and technology from a multidisciplinary perspective.

The term ‘PsychNology’ results from the merge of two words, Psychology and Technology, and has been chosen in order to emphasize the tight relationship connecting the two concepts. It releases three issues a year and publishes orginal papers subject to a review process. It embraces an open access policy to increase accessibility of scientific content and offer colors, videos, off-prints and registration at no cost for readers and authors.

The current issue deals with the digital divide and upcoming issues are planned on emerging trends in cybertherapy, designing technology to meet the needs of the older user, and mobile media and communication.

Past issues have dealt with such topics as usability in electronic environments, body in cyberspace, future interfaces (part a and part b), human-computer interactions, computer support for collaborative learning, and space, place and technology (part a and part b).

(via Nicolas Nova in Pasta & Vinegar)

19 April 2006

Philips design magazine on emerging markets, sustainability and innovation

New Value by One Design
Philips released today the April issue of new value by One Design, its online quarterly design magazine.

The current issue starts with an introductory article on designing for emerging markets by Stefano Marzano, CEO and chief creative director, and then continues with a report on a workshop to develop a vision on sustainable design, an article on Philips’ new approach to innovation and a story on user-centred lighting design

The magazine also includes interviews with Kris Ramachandran (Ram), ceo of Philips Electronics India Ltd. about designing for emerging markets, and with Anton Andrews of Philips Design about how the fear of handing over creative outcomes is outweighed by the inspiration and insight that can come from collaborative design and innovation.

7 April 2006

HP targets “next billion customers” with technologies for growing economies

HP gesture-based keyboard
HP yesterday announced new technologies, created by researchers in HP Labs India, which are designed to help grow opportunities in rapidly expanding economies.

The technologies, which primarily focus on India but also address markets in China, Russia and Brazil, are designed to adapt to the needs of non-Western languages, unique infrastructures, and indigenous cultures and customs.

“Our goal is to help our customers around the world by improving access to information and communications technologies that best suit their needs and the needs of their economies and societies,” said Dick Lampman, HP senior vice president, research, and director, HP Labs. “We believe this will create opportunities for HP to access its next billion customers.”

Read press release | backgrounder | story (San Francisco Chronicle)

UPDATE:
Eric Kintz, HP’s vice president of global marketing strategy and excellence, just contacted me to alert us to a follow-up story he wrote on this matter.

30 March 2006

Intel launches Community PC for India

Intel Community PC
Intel Corporation just launched an innovative PC platform that has been developed exclusively to meet the needs of rural villages and communities in India.

Designed as a result of defining locally relevant computing solutions based on Intel technology, the Intel-powered “Community PC” platform is equipped to operate in a community setting while accommodating the varying environmental conditions prevalent in the country.

The aptly named Community PC platform was defined by Intel after intensive ethnographic studies in rural India showed that a clear desire for technology access exists in remote rural communities. Unfortunately, weather conditions (heat, dust, humidity) and unreliable power sources can compromise typical PCs used in such environments.

To address these issues, the Intel-powered Community PC platform was developed to be a fully functional, expandable and shared-access computing solution.

- Read full story
– See also: Indians ‘want hi-tech products’ (BBC background story)

19 March 2006

African mobile phone subscribers hit 100 million mark [Mobile Africa]

The number of mobile telephone subscribers in Africa has risen from 8 million, five years ago, to 100 million, Kenya`s information and communication minister Mutahi Kagwe said Tuesday.

He said one in every nine Africans subscribes today to a mobile phone, and noted that Kenya was one of the fastest growing markets in the world in the telecommunications industry.

Speaking during the official opening of the Nokia Kenya office, the minister said mobile telephony was “not a luxury anymore in the African context”, and had become “a prerequisite” for the economic development of the region.

“Recent studies have found a link between mobile phone penetration and economic growth in developing countries, especially where fixed-line networks are sparse,” he said.

Read full story

(via textually.org)

1 March 2006

Computer technology opens a world of work to disabled people [The New York Times]

Disabled_work
[New flexible work] arrangements are bringing jobs to thousands of people with disabilities, including those with spinal cord injuries and vision loss. Fast computers and broadband connections have become so inexpensive and reliable that location is now not an issue for certain jobs, like customer service.

At the same time, an abundance of technology is available to help disabled people operate computers, like software that lets a blind person use a keyboard instead of a mouse to navigate a program, and voice synthesizers that turn text into speech. There are also alternatives to the mouse for people with limited use of their arms.

Read full story

23 January 2006

One of four web users are disabled users

Accessibility
A new look at what makes up accessibility.

“Did you know that up to 25% of all visitors on your website have some kind of accessibility problem. Some of your users may be blind, deaf, dyslectic, has learning disabilities or motoric disabilities such as schlerosis, parkinson’s disease, etc. A so-called functional disability.

But how about users with a technical disability: Wireless devices, slow internet connections, old browsers, feed readers, etc. These should be considered as well, as there are probably more people with technological disability than functional disability.

25% of all web users have some kind of accessibility problem. That is a claim from the Danish Center for Accesibility.”

Read full post

(via Usability in the News)