Closing the digital divide

This summer I´m working with DiscoverHope Fund (DHF), an Austin-based international development institution that works with microfinance organizations that issue small loans to women in Cajamarca, Peru to start small businesses.

DHF provides classes to microloan recipients in subjects of their choosing. Traditionally, they’ve wanted to learn about artisan skills, personal health, small business management, etc. Recently, though, they´ve started to request computer and Internet literacy classes.

My job in Cajamarca is to design a computer literacy curriculum to be useful for these women. I’ll spend my summer teaching classes and tweaking the curriculum. I aim to answer several questions related to the digital divide, most importantly: how do you make the Internet useful for someone who makes under $5 a day and has never interacted with a computer before?

I take as given that information on the Internet will be useful to these women if they can access it. If you can probe virtually unlimited amounts of information at little or no cost, then you can leverage that information to make your life better.

But is it even worth the effort for these women? To characterize using the Internet as having little or no cost for these women is disingenuous. Even if their Internet access is paid for by DHF, they still have to put the time in to learn how to use it, which is no small task. Between fighting poverty, staying sheltered, protecting their families, and fostering small businesses, their time is anything but low cost.

Add this blog to your RSS reader: I´ll keep you up to date all summer with pictures, videos, and commentary.

This entry was posted in 2010 on by .

About blakemesser

Blake Messer is a Master´s of a Global Policy Studies student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and a William H. Crook Fellow of International Affairs. Blake specializes in Global Technology Policy. Specifically, his studies revolve around Gov 2.0, social media, Internet policy, net neutrality, and the digital divide. Currently, Blake is working with DiscoverHope Fund -- a microfinance institution operating in Cajamarca, Peru -- to create an Internet literacy curriculum geared toward microloan recipients who make around $2/day. Prior to joining the LBJ School, Blake worked as an economic analyst for Quant Economics, a litigation consulting firm in San Diego, California. Blake also holds a B.A. in Economics with a minor in Mathematics from the University of Texas, Austin.

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