The Independent reports of a recent debate in the UK which tried to assess social responsibility in a wired world. Helen Milner, the managing director of an organisation that works to bring technology to everyone in the UK, spoke on behalf of the 25% of people who, she claimed, have no access to the internet. The unwired class has become the new lumpen proletariat in a world where cheap goods and services can be had online. Meanwhile, the general argument is that people who have no idea how to send e-mail are "Luddite losers," said to be "doomed to analogue oblivion." Technological ignorance is a sign of failure in a Darwinian digital democracry. The digital divide has turned into a chasm, and it is up to this unwired class to get online and save themselves. The network is there: in libraries, schools and townhalls. Get online and survive in this new digital democracy. However, Milner expressed a different argument: instead of a digital democracy, what the new technology culture does is to echo and replicate the unequal hierarchies of 19th century capitalism. Who has the money will prosper was the game then, and who has access to the internet--which requires money just the same--is the game now. To avoid the duplicating the same social inequalities, the wired class actually has a responsibility to help the unwired play catch up.
I can imagine that the number of the great unwired is even bigger in the Philippines, where a lot of villages across the country don't even have decent roads, regular electricity, much less telephone lines and wireless modems. It does not make sense to adopt the Keener argument: sure, wireless mobility can be had for Php1k a month, but in the countryside, who will choose wi-fi over food and electricity? It makes more sense to follow the Milner argument that narrowing the digital chasm needs social responsibility. But how to do that in a country where a broadband deal is seen as an opportunity to deepen the pockets of a few wired men?