Is technology a fundamental right?

Inequities in economic classes, those living in urban and rural areas, and between the educated and uneducated contribute to the knowledge and abilities to use technology to one’s advantage. Dr. Hamadoun Toure, Secretary General, International Telecommunication Union said, “We have entered the knowledge society and everyone must have access to participate. The internet is the most powerful potential source of enlightenment ever created. Governments must regard it as basic infrastructure, just like roads, waste and water”. In order to achieve the right to participate people need the skills (computer knowledge) and resources (computers) to become a “digital citizen” in the 21st Century. (source: PowerfulInformation.org)

The skills and understanding to interact with technology is imperative in today’s environment. In order to gain employment one has to know and use not only computer programs such as Word, Acrobat, Excel, Prezi (or other presentation programs), but mobile apps as well such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Periscope. Connection with the global society and their viewpoints are splattered all over broadcast media and organizations need to stay atop of stories that may impact their growth. Having the knowledge to understand and act with technology is becoming a right for all American citizens.

To have the skills means that one is able to interact online not be a passive user.

Become an active user of technology

Zuckerman created Facebook so that we could communicate with each other not just take photos of what we ate for lunch. An active user of any technology requires one to know how to use it…comment, explain, or expose statements. So, in Facebook, communicating by taking a photo of one’s lunch, one has to be an active user of technology, the person communicating must also say where the lunch took place, with whom it occurred, and whether the food was any good and recommend (or not recommend) it to others on a global scale — in other words, share it! Now the onus is on someone to take that recommendation or “share”, and expose it. Was the statement that the food was fantastic or not, true? Is the location of the restaurant convenient? The comment section on Facebook is where the communication takes place. It is supposed to be an area where one can express one’s opinions even if they don’t agree with the original discussion.

Again, one does need the skills to use this technology. “Using the Internet is becoming a necessity across more and more facets of life. It is used to complete homework, search for and apply to jobs, connect with family and friends, and access government programs.” (source: everyoneon).

Technology is becoming a necessity @austinfreenet

As reported by Mashable, the term “digital divide” is often used to discuss the connectivity gap among distinct regions and demographics. In June 2013, a White House broadband report concluded the digital divide is still very much present in the U.S.

In a Benton Foundation study, 86.3% of households earning $75K+ have Internet access compared to 12.7% of households earning less than $15K per year. This statistic deepens the digital divide because low income populations do not have the means to learn the necessary skills to have a successful, productive life. Therefore, learning technology and computer skills remains the responsibility of educational institutions. The caveat is that because of the cost of internet usage, many low-income families cannot afford to have internet access at home, hence, the digital divide.

Despite the growing importance of internet access in American life, the impact on a teacher’s ability to interact with students is a major issue according to Pew Research. Introducing new technology is a challenge for teachers and a huge barrier for students and people in general who cannot afford internet access. Computer networks are playing an increasingly important role in one’s learning, professional work and career development. To compensate for this new knowledge educational institutions need to teach computer programming, internet usage, and social media apps. Even social services are administered online but in order to access and use these services, one has to know and understand how to use technology.

President Obama

In a 2013 White House blogger, Gene Sperling, Former Dir. of National Economic Council wrote, “[Broadband] technology is doing more than just enriching lives; it is creating jobs.” Over the past few years, the “App economy” is estimated to have created around 500,000 jobs. President Obama said, “We have an obligation to wire our schools with better Internet than our coffee house; our kids, and our economy, deserve better.” His [President Obama’s] ConnectED initiative seeks to bring American schools into the 21st Century by modernizing them to give students the “best education in the world so they can compete for jobs in the global economy.” President Obama believes that America should “lead, not follow, on developing the best learning opportunities for our young people.” The American education system needs high-speed connectivity and has the support from a bipartisan LEAD Commission to bring this concept to fruition.

President Obama, VP Biden (L), Speaker of House Ryan (R)

“This isn’t about faster Internet or fewer dropped calls. It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age. It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.” — President Obama, State of the Union Address, 2012

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