Russia over Digital Abyss
Information and communications technologies are crucial for new economy
This summer at the UN General Assembly plenary session on information and communication technologies for development at UN headquarters in New York, another “war on indifference” was declared, namely, on bridging the “digital divide” that exists between developed countries and the rest.
Russia is included in the “others,” which, according to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, constitute two-thirds of the world’s countries.
The concepts of “digital divide” and “knowledge gap” were introduced in 1998 at a conference of the International Telecommunication Union. Knowledge-based global economy is more than 80% of the main means of production, concentrated in the intellectual sector. According to the World Bank, no more than 16% of GDP in economically polar countries such as the United States and the Malagasy Republic (Madagascar) is formed by the industrial production component. The rest is human resources, where the gap occurs, allowing the U.S. to lead the world and the Malagasy to languish at the tail end of the world’s second hundred economies.
Just as our monkey ancestors armed themselves with sticks and became Homo Sapiens, today’s yuppies have armed themselves with laptops and fiber optics, proving the triumph of the new evolutionary path with financial performance and productivity growth. Thus, as a result of the natural selection that began under the influence of the ICT revolution, a large part of the world’s population was cut off from the means of production of the twenty-first century.
The reason is that 880 million adults in the world today cannot even write or read. Another 4.5 billion people’s knowledge is limited to secondary education, obtained at a time when the word “Internet” was not even a part of the glossary.
It is these people–adults over the age of 25-30–that constitute today the conditionally active part of world society. “Conditionally” because without access to ICTs, working in morally and physically obsolete industries, they mostly live on less than $2 a day.
The contribution of the business community made it possible to use satellite technology – to broadcast educational programs for 145,000 students interactively via the teleport of a low-orbiting satellite. The contribution of 2.5 thousand NGOs from the UN/NGO/IREN network and 372 educational centers, established under the auspices of the Modern Humanitarian University Committee, – receiving and adapting information from the satellite for local users.
As a result not only in the CIS, but also in the world the committee’s activity is perceived by many as running ahead of the locomotive. However, the initial algorithm of this run – uniting efforts of states, public and business – already today allows the adult population of the post-soviet space to acquire knowledge necessary for real integration into the world division of highly qualified labor.
And what the division of efforts leads to can be seen in the example of combating the “digital” divide in a single country, Russia. The program “Electronic Russia” began with the purchase of computer equipment. Today in most schools it is gathering dust under locks because there is nobody to work on it. According to Open Society Institute data, in places where “federal computers” did start working, a paradoxical tendency is revealed: within a few months students are ahead of their teachers in computer literacy. And then their learning process is canned. Until the standard of living of a family allows to buy a personal computer, connect it to the Internet and do self-education.
It is easy to understand why Russian officials have chosen the last link in the rigidly consistent chain “adult education continuity – productivity of labor – standard of living – quality of education for children.
Mental shifts, which are required by the integration processes of globalization, do not happen immediately and not to everyone. And until they happen, some countries will continue to hang over the “digital” abyss, while others will break their spears at international summits and UN assemblies, arguing about who should be the first to extend a hand of financial and technological assistance.