I’m finally buying a new computer this weekend—my first Macbook. I am chucking my PC mass of junk, and turning to the whitewashed world of Apple. Quite a transition. As an overworked college student and simultaneous Facebook addict, the amount of time I spend daily on the internet (or at least connected online thanks to my Blackberry) is borderline gross. So, in thinking about my new laptop and general internet use I came to some realizations about the deep implications and symbolic significance of owning a computer, a luxury we often take for granted and whose power we don’t always take fully take into account. And, of course, how social entrepreneurship makes an entrance into these simple daily things.
As you have perhaps already seen in some of my previous blog posts, issues of education and literacy and poverty are perhaps what most intrigue me within the world of social entrepreneurship……and though I am completely inept when it comes to technology, I can easily recognize that in today’s cyber and globalizing world, technology is inextricably connected to a solid education and equal foundation that individuals need to compete with the rest of the world and overcome economic struggles.
Unfortunately however, technology is not an equally-accessible commodity that can guarantee these fundamental opportunities to be a connected and participatory member of the online world. To us privileged Georgetown students, the internet is a basic thing of quotidian everyday life, but to others the promise of internet carries a much greater weight and potential.
Thanks to technology and the spread of free trade and cross capitalism, every day the world is becoming more and more connected. From my dorkily anthropological perspective, this sometimes saddens me because I fear a total homogenization of the many vibrant cultures and languages and peoples I find so engaging.
From my social entrepreneurial perspective however, the relationships between technology, globalization, and education are perhaps some of the most important issues we should be considering and worrying about these day, and more importantly, addressing. By utilizing technology and the internet, the “haves” are able to attain more knowledge and essentially continue their social and economic ascent. Meanwhile, the impoverished “have-nots”, lacking that technological window, access, and connection to the rest of the world, just watch themselves get further steeped into the dark abysses of poverty. They wait in the shadows while other prosper with the gift of internet access. Again, they become excluded by the internet phenomenon that has become a simple reality of most peoples’ lives.
An old CNN article I discovered from several years ago discussed the future implications of the internet phenomenon within the realm of economic inequality: “Lack of access leads to a lack of wealth and income, which was the reason for the lack of access.” Clearly, and still today, this lack of adequate access to technology, particularly within the global community of the internet, prompts a perpetuating cycle and circularity that further entrenches the poor in a world from which they are trying to escape.
Which is where social entrepreneurship comes into play. This digital divide is not a new problem but just recently have social entrepreneurs started doing something about it. Because, they have the power to either further cripple the poor of the world…..or empower them. Take the social business One Laptop Per Child for example, which has designed a cheap and cost-effective laptop model that ensure the upcoming generation of rural children will be adequately connected to the opportunities the internet provides and the gateway to the world they want to be part of.
So, through the tenets of social entrepreneurship, we can start creating an equal playing field through equal access to education and technology that will prevent further exacerbation of this basic gap among humanity. How our generation decides to approach the internet can either create further economic and education barriers or break them down once and for all.
~ Sarah Henningsen, Georgetown College 2012