[LETTERS to the editor]Google and the digital divide

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[LETTERS to the editor]Google and the digital divide

I am writing in response to the article “Good Google” (Sept. 10). According to the article, Google, the global Internet search engine, is planning to narrow the digital divide across the world by offering free wireless Internet connections to 3 billion people who have no access to the Internet.

The purpose of Google’s project is laudable because it will allow many people to gain information and knowledge through the Web.

However, one question comes up: Will the plan be as successful as people expect?

My answer is, to be honest, no, for two reasons.

Firstly, those 3 billion people will not be interested in free wireless Internet.

Usually, the majority of the people who lack Internet access live in developing countries, and they are suffering from acute poverty.

I remember seeing some people in Africa on “W,” a Korean TV program, eating cookies made of clay in order to stanch hunger.

Even worse, some cannot afford to buy clay cookies; they are too expensive for them. This is not an extreme case; it is what happens to the poor everyday.

Thus, I believe that rather than free wireless Internet, food, clean water and housing are more necessary to those 3 billion people.

Furthermore, Google’s project might exacerbate the digital gap in developing countries.

Most people in poor countries are working in labor-intensive industries, not capital-intensive ones.

In other words, the poor are not familiar with the information society. Thus, the Internet might bring a culture shock to them.

In addition, poor people are unlikely to have chances to learn about the Internet unless Google helps them use the Internet for free as well.

On the other hand, relatively rich people in developing countries might know how to use the Internet through education and eventually dominate cyberspace.

Then, only the rich [and others relatively well off] will enjoy information transfer and cultural expansion and the information gap between the haves and the have-nots would get wider.

Before implementing this plan, Google needs to reconsider if it will really benefit those people it intends to reach.

If the “3 billion people” targeted indicate those who die from hunger, I am sure that they will not quite readily welcome free wireless Internet connections as Google expects.

This is because for the poor, overcoming poverty takes priority over overcoming the digital divide.

Yang Hye-jee, Shinmok High School

*e-mail to eopinion@joongang.co.kr or via fax to 82-2-751-9219
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