Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Digital Citizenship

Let's talk about the inverse of the digital divide - digital citizenship.

Citizenship in today's world, however one defines its characteristics and practice, draws its sustenance from the access to information - read: education; within the information society, especially democratic ones, citizenship must come to terms with technology; and that the level access to technology - as means, object and context - influences education is undeniable.

These three points are the driving force of dynamism that is currently underway in countries undergoing a transition towards the development of knowledge or information societies.

This particular constellation of social, political, economic and technological phenomena is complicated but there are a few things that one should consider and I bet that every one reading this can come up with current examples:

  • the development of sophisticated digital technologies of information and networked communication and their rapid deployment across a wide range of social, political and economic practices and institutions, domestically and globally;
  • the emergence of novel and powerful biological-based technologies that provoke moral, ethical and political controversy;
  • the 'commitment' post-industrial states to encourage application of technology as crucial to economic growth and material prosperity, national cultural autonomy, democracy and social well-being;
  • the post-war restructuring of capitalist economies around priorities euphemistically styled as 'innovation', 'flexibility' and 'competitiveness';
  • the increased attention to the role played by research academics in generating opportunities, innovation and sustaining flexibility in knowledge-based economies;
  • the rapid integration of new information and communication technologies into society at all levels;
  • the growth of private, non-profit, commercial enterprises;
  • the crisis of democratic citizenship in most western democracies as seen by the decreasing rates of formal political participation and civic engagement, declining levels trust in political institutions, diminished civic capacity and political knowledge and normalization of state repression of civil liberties;
  • the widespread popular hope in the potential for new information and communication technologies to reinvigorate democratic citizenship and governance.

Individually or together - these points testify to the role of 'information access' in addressing the concrete challenges of living well in today's, contemporary technological society.

As we concentrate and write about the digital divide, we should remember how we are defining the digital citizen. This is not only a problem/solution for developing nations. This is a global issue. In there own ways, every nation asking themselves what this new 'information society' is.

Let's not hide behind the notion that this is only a problem of the developing nations.


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