Kicki Nordström kicki.nordstrom at
Tue Jul 31 07:06:31 EDT 2007

Dear  Kwasi,
Yes, and why could we not learn from earlier mistakes and why must we always reinvent the wheel? Let us bring in to Governments in developing countries, what we know by experience from industrial countries, and also bring in our knowledge of what could be done then developing countries are building up its ICT infrastructure. 
Warm regards


Kicki Nordström
Synskadades Riksförbund (SRF) 
World Blind Union (WBU)
122 88 Enskede
Tel: +46 (0)8 399 000
Fax: +46 (0)8 725 99 20
Cell: +46 (0)70 766 18 19
E-mail: kicki.nordstrom at 

kicki.nordstrom at (private) 



Från: kwasi boakye-akyeampong [mailto:kboakye1 at] 
Skickat: den 30 juli 2007 15:16
Till: governance at; Norbert Bollow

Hello Norbert,

Sorry, if I sounded like you did not know what you are talking about. My response was as a result of the following:

" ... 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 happens.

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> 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
	President of the Swiss Internet User Group SIUG
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