SV: [governance] IS THE DIGITAL DIVIDE A PHANTOM?
ecrire at catherine-roy.net
Mon Jul 30 11:17:45 EDT 2007
I am new to this list and I have been following this discussion with much interest. I would like to address a few things with regards to access to ICTs for people with disabilities and Open Source software.
First, I would like to point out that, with regards to OS tools for the disabled, there are indeed many tools that have been developed so far and there is a very engaged community still working on this challenge. For example, there is the OATSoft Interest Group, a group dedicated to improving Assistive Technology and computer accessibility through the power of Open Source development techniques. More information can be found on their Web site. They have made information available about the tools that exist through a repository and they foster the development of more initiatives in this regard. One thing that has come up on their mailing list concerns how to create interest and reach out to developing countries with regards to OS assistive technologies and I will certainly make them aware of this discussion here.
But obviously, the information is not getting through enough if people think that OS has not been explored for the development of assistive technologies and that challenge will need to be addressed.
And still, OS assistive technology has limited penetration because, among other things, in developed countries, proprietary tools have a monopoly, they are prescribed and people are trained to use them because they are often the only tools that medical and physical therapy professionals and training resources know of. I suspect that, to varying degrees, this can be the case also in developing countries, though I am unaware of how assistive technologies are delivered in these parts of the world.
Also, as was pointed out by Kikki and others, there is a great need for Web authors and developers to be more aware of accessibility standards (such as those developed at the W3C) because even with all the tools (OS or not), their impact will be limited without adherence to these standards. This was discussed at length by the Disability Caucus during the WSIS. Much progress has been made over the years but much more still needs to be done because accessibility standards are an important part of the puzzle with regards to accessing the Web for people with disabilities.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: kwasi boakye-akyeampong
> [mailto:kboakye1 at yahoo.co.uk]
> Sent: July 30, 2007 9:16 AM
> To: governance at lists.cpsr.org; Norbert Bollow
> Subject: Re: SV: [governance] IS THE DIGITAL DIVIDE A
> Hello Norbert,
> Sorry, if I sounded like you did not know what you
> are talking about. My response was as a result of the
> " ... as soon as this has been achieved, all visually
> disabled people everywhere will be able to benefit
> from this ..."
> Taken out of context, it sounds like as soon as a
> screen reader becomes free then the digital divide
> will be bridged.
> You are right, we must ensure that the technology
> becomes, at least, accessible to those who are
> fortunate enough to have it available like Kikki
> suggested. It is a shame that visually challenged
> people in developed regions are still struggling to
> have access to technology though it is available by
> others around them. This can be attributed to the
> same old devil, economies of scale, as someone
> mentioned earlier. If commercial interests are
> allowed to drive technological change, that is what
> May be the digital divide argument has been over-
> simplified and its definition too narrow. Matter of
> fact, the visually impaired and physically challenged
> folks in deprived regions (developing countries) of
> the world are totally left out of the discussions
> when it comes to national ICT policy discussions. And
> if we don't start talking about it now, we shall
> still be looking answers for these questions 20 years
> down the line.
> Norbert Bollow <nb at bollow.ch> wrote:
> Kwasi Boakye-Akyeampong wrote:
> > Norbert, you wrote:
> > "This of course needs to be funded somehow,
> but as
> > soon as this has been achieved, all visually
> disabled people
> > everywhere will be able to benefit from this
> > I disagree with the underlined bit because in
> the developing
> > (under-developed) regions, even the non-
> visually impaired are
> > struggling to have access to computers.
> Internet access is even
> > worse.
> Yes, yes. I have been to rural Africa (not
> where tourists go, but
> where the genuine reality is), and I would
> certainly say that visiting
> with the wonderful people living there or in
> some other region with
> major technological and economic development
> challenges, and trying to
> understand them and their situations as well as
> possible for an
> outsider who can only commit a relatively
> limited amount of time to
> getting to know them, that is certainly an
> absolutely very
> fundamentally valuable experience for anyone
> who would like to make a
> contribution toward bridging or reducing the
> digital divide.
> Please don't dismiss my statements about the
> benefits of making
> screen reader software available as Free
> Software by addressing me
> as if I were someone who doesn't know what he's
> talking about. It is
> not necessary to have reliable electricity or
> internet connectivity
> before screen reader software becomes valuable
> to visually disabled
> people. Even when for a given area it is not
> possible to do more than
> visiting them e.g. once a week with a mobile
> "information society
> communication center" containing one or more
> battery operated laptop
> computers, certainly at least one of those
> computers should be
> equipped with screen reader software.
> By the way, has it been tried to use screen
> reader software for the
> purpose of making information society
> technologies more accessible
> to illiterate/not-yet-literate people?
> > Believe me, the digital divide issue is worse
> than we make it
> > sound. Most of the solutions we propose are
> just not practicable in
> > the deprived regions. They are models fit for
> the developed
> > countries. For instance, most developing
> countries are struggling
> > with electricity supply even in the cities.
> Most rural communities
> > are not connected to the national electricity
> grid. So bridging the
> > digital divide goes beyond providing them
> with computers.
> Certainly. In my opinion, based on the
> observations that I have made,
> empowering people to use computers productively
> is much more difficult
> than providing them with computers, electricity
> and some kind of
> internet connection. Quite a lot of measures
> are necessary in order
> to transform that human-empowerment task from
> being virtually-unsolvably
> difficult into being feasible with the ordinary
> level of skill that can
> be realistically expected from teachers at
> rural schools in economically
> underdeveloped regions of the world.
> One measure that will in my opinion help a lot
> is to provide them with
> Free Software rather than proprietary software.
> Screen reader software is a special case
> because in that area, AFAIK the
> needed functionality does not exist yet as Free
> Software, hence there
> is a need for thinking about how the
> develeopment of this kind of
> software as Free Software can be funded.
> In most other important areas, the essential
> functionality is already
> available as Free Software and just needs to be
> marketed more
> Norbert Bollow http://Norbert.ch
> President of the Swiss Internet User Group SIUG
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