Digital Dividend conference

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From: Dan Kohn (
Date: Tue Oct 17 2000 - 10:00:04 PDT

I came to this conference to get a feel for what was happening in the area
and evaluate how novel an idea <>
seems to be.

Half way through, I am tempted to write a neo-Marxist critique for a
magazine like the Nation or Mother Jones talking about how strange
corporations look and act during "late capitalism". I would compare the
Ethernet access in my hotel room at the W to the Internet cafe a friend runs
in Kampala.

I would love to believe that we live in a world where companies are causing
democracy, markets, and technology to spread throughout the world because
that is what best provides them with new markets to sell their goods. But I
don't. At best, I think corporate interest is necessary, but nowhere near
sufficient for the challenge at hand.

                - dan

Dan Kohn <>
<>  <tel:+1-650-327-2600>

===================================================================== THE INDUSTRY STANDARD'S M E D I A G R O K A Review of Press Coverage of the Internet Economy ===================================================================== | | Tuesday, October 17, 2000

TOP GROKS ~~~~~~~~~ Net Access? Let's Start With a Phone

The digital divide is like the weather: Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it. This week the government and media donned their galoshes and talked about the divide some more.

On Monday the Department of Commerce released a report on computer and Internet access. Outlets played it straight, dutifully rehashing the figures and pointing out the report's good and bad news. The gender gap in home computing has closed, and more Americans than ever are online. Rural residents, the 50-plus set, African-Americans and Latinos are more wired than they were last year (good), but the divide still exists (bad). Reporters took the lazy way out and described "minorities" lacking computer access, not explaining until later in the article that Asians are just as plugged-in as whites.

New bad news came from the agency's first look at Internet use among the disabled. They're half as likely to have Internet access as those without disabilities. Could it be because most Web sites are about as accessible as a fourth-floor walk-up?

Meanwhile, policy wonks and tech bigwigs gathered in Seattle to do a digital-divide rain dance. The three-day conference sponsored by the World Resources Institute think tank will examine the citizens of developing nations, not just Americans deprived of a home PC. "How will the Web affect the future for people who have never made a telephone call?" asked Wired News' Manny Frishberg, who focused on WRI chairman William Ruckelshaus and his optimistic plan to turn $5-a-day wage earners into "digital dividends." Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Dan Richman was a bit more cynical about the conference's "unabashedly capitalistic thesis: that seeking a profit is the best way to help the world's poor benefit from technology."

If you're wondering how corporations can help the world's poorest citizens through business ventures - let alone profit from them - one conference attendee gave an example. A Bangladeshi cell-phone company convinced a local bank, "which makes tiny loans to people so they can buy cows and other means to a livelihood, to start loaning the money to buy cell phones," explained the Seattle P-I article. Then the buyer sells phone calls to her phone-less neighbors for a small profit. It's no recipe for riches, but it's a better business model than half the dot-coms out there.

It's naive to think a three-day conference will revolutionize the planet - thankfully, no one in the often wide-eyed media seemed to harbor that delusion. But with powerful attendees like AOL, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, it has at least as much chance of changing the have-not weather as any government report. - Jen Muehlbauer

Report: Digital Divide Widens,1151,19429,00.html?nl=mg

World Leaders, Net Execs Take On Digital Divide

Finding Profit Amid the Poor

On Creating Digital Dividends,1282,39266,00.html

Computer, Net Gap Shrink But Some Still Lag

White House Hails Narrowing of 'Digital Divide'

Report: More Than 50% in U.S. Own PCs (AP)

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