Paula Uimonen develops on ideas expressed in “Have the architects of the Information Society forgotten the essential: society?” and “What do you do after you’ve said ‘Eureka!'”?
All too often, advocates of information society talk in terms of the need for social adjustment on behalf of the users to embrace the benefits of the information revolution, when in fact it should be the other way around: it is information technology that needs social adjustment.
The recently held conference on “Africa and the New Information Technologies” is a good example of the lopsided nature of the current discourse on the Information Society. During this high level meeting it was suggested that IT will bring better health care, education, economic production and democracy to Africa. Wonderful! But if these social aspects are so tremendously undervalued as it is, why would IT make any difference? If half of Africa’s children never receive education, then what difference do computers make? If people die from diseases incurred by the lack of hygiene, illnesses which could be remedied by such simple methods as water and soap, then what difference would on-line access to medical journals make? And if you don’t have the necessary infrastructure to transport your goods, then what difference does it make if you can advertise world-wide? And if political participation is not high on the agenda of the mighty rulers, then what difference does it make to have the means to speak your mind (if you are lucky) when no one will listen anyway?
Although it is true that IT provides a tool for social development, it will not in itself alter today’s societies. Talking in terms of information revolution is hypocritical, to say the least, considering the fact that the fundamental aspects of today’s societies are reproduced rather than altered.
It is clear that what is needed is considerable rethinking in the ways our societies are structured.
We need a new social contract.
The question is how? What do you do after you’ve said Eureka?
Participatory Advocacy is needed, perhaps more than ever before, to promote actual change in our societies–in all spheres: political, economic, social and cultural–involving as many as possible of those who are actually concerned.
One starting point is sharing ideas with friends and colleagues. Another one is networking further, beyond one’s immediate social environment. This needs to be done both through and beyond tools such as Internet to reach as many as possible.
It’s clear that it will take a great deal of effort. And it won’t be easy–the obstacles are many and powerful. But we really don’t have much choice.
We either become better informed and adjust our societies accordingly, or hope that someone will come up with a computer virus that deletes all misinformed powers and replaces them with ….???
Paula Uimonen, Geneva