2 points:
In your original remarks re the digital divide, you replied to a 14- 
year-old's assertion that computers are "high-income," not "low- 
income." I don't think these terms should be taken literally. People  
who feel helplessly poor feel deprived of dignity and equality as  
well as materially. After all, materially, many poor in this country  
today may be better off than many nobles were in the middle ages, but  
relative to their age cohort in the US today, they are beaten down in  
many ways, and with each passing year it gets worse.

As to your quote of Herb, I don't recall what he said originally, but  
there are other choices besides pontificating and community action.  
In many cases I have seen, community action becomes a feel-good  
activity that cannot change much. Over the last forty years the right  
in this country and to some degree the center have pontificated  
endlessly about the glories of the free market, etc. They have  
established numerous think tanks to spread and elaborate on their  
gospel. The left, by contrast, has either retreated to academic post- 
modern posturing or plunged headlong into community action, while  
disdaining any clear thinking about what alternatives are possible or  
desirable now, or even how best to make use of what energies for  
activism we might have.

Twenty-five years ago, I testified before then Congressman Al Gore on  
the desriability of developing a govenrment program to provide  
computers in Africa. The prevailing view then was "they don't need  
them; they need  more 'basic' aid." So today Africa is still poorer  
and has only 4% internet penetration. I thought then, and I think now  
that the prevailing view on the matter was supremely patronizing. The  
US government, among others, eagerly supplies Africa with weapons,  
but not with Internet infrastructure.

In general, we should favor that poor communities be the first, not  
the last, in line for innovations that can possibly help in  
connection or knowledge. That is one main hope for ending inequality.


On Jul 25, 2007, at 11:05 AM, Eric Entemann wrote:

> The organization in Boston that has done yeoman work in  
> distributing surplus computers is TecSChange, Technology for Social  
> Change. I believe that Charlie Welch, one of its founders, is a  
> reader of this list. They supply tech support for the computers  
> distributed locally, and work with organizations abroad to ensure a  
> supply of spare parts and that there are technically skilled  
> persons involved in tech support at the recipient end.  Remote  
> support via the net is also provided.
> I have yet to hear of any resentment on the part of those receiving  
> these computers.  I of course support free new computers and free  
> wireless broadband access for all, but we should be doing something  
> in the meantime.  As Herb Fox has pointed out, one of the  
> shortcomings of Science for the People was that there was too much  
> pontificating and not enough community action, particularly in the  
> later years of the organization.
> BTW, Michael, I also had to wear my older brother's castoffs.  I  
> think now that my parents' entering the work world at the very  
> beginning of the Great Depression had something to do with that.   
> And perhaps also with my own rather obsessive frugality.