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2 points:
Eric, 
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. 

Best,

Michael


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.