I recently read a really good article called “A Tale of Two Countries” . The two countries were actually the same geographical space but were about people who lived completely different lives and had completely different outlooks.
The actual country is the U.S.A. and the writer, Jon Bischke, highlighted the boom that has taken place in Silicon Valley and the way that you would not have to travel too far to get to what he calls “unemployed America”.
Unemployed America is full of people who have lost jobs in industries that have closed down their factories which lie like forgotten monsters decaying and boarded up. They are not particularly qualified and more importantly they do not have access to the technology that is at the heart of the “boom” in the “Google”, “Twitter” “Apple”, world.
Most importantly many of their children do not have access to the iPad or even laptops and go to schools where access to technology can vary from complete use (as in the great examples of 1 to 1 Laptop use by schools such as Van Meter in Iowa) to a cursory visit to the P.C.’s in the out-of-date Computer Lab perhaps once a week.
My worry is about the importance of the “Digital Divide” and the way that politicians do not seem to get the fact that access to technology is a necessity for our children not a luxury. The same people who will extol the use of “Facebook” and “Twitter” in their campaigns and talk in public about the importance of STEM education seem oblivious to the fact that a large investment of technology in schools and the ability of children to use this technology freely (i.e. with no blocks on programs such as YouTube) is an absolute necessity if a country is to compete for jobs in the future.
The factories like dormant, yes. This is because we have moved into a different economic era. Just as the old Woollen Mills closed down because of competition from cheaper production abroad, it is necessary for people to have a different set of skills to cope with a new economy.
The digital divide, as the article states, is also a social and emotional divide. It is about the ability to live any sort of decent life, the ability to dream about getting “out from under” and someday having your children and their children living a good life.
This problem is not just an American one, it is effecting every advanced industrial nation. Here in Britain where I live I see examples of the same thing that I have described in relation to the U.S.A. I really feel that politicians and business needs to look at the implications of a growing digital divide and what it would mean to the future stability of our democracies. Education does matter and it transforms and digital education is a key transformer for all our futures.
- A Tale of Two Countries (news.slashdot.org)
- U.S. Tech Booms While Unemployment Grows (blogs.wsj.com)