The Stairway to Global Digital Participation


In my last contribution I provided a backdrop to the conversation room of #digipart – a convo focused on mapping the journey towards Global Digital Participation. With references to different digital marginalizations a Call for Action among SMC Globalists and Activists, the question was posed – ”How do we get all to 'get it'?”. How do we share across regions – developed and developing economies? How do we share across demographics in between countries?

With two billion being connected to the net globally and only 100 million of these on the African continent, ”mobile” is the Magical Wizard Stick posed to dramatically change this picture. UK and Sweden have provided examples by launching initiatives to adjust the balance in between those within and without the ”cloud” in their respective countries – RaceOnline2012 and Digidel.

The latter now have launched its first beta website – http://digidel.se – with a call for interested stakeholders wanting to get a paradox straight: With one of the highest net penetration countries in the world – 89 % of all Swedes have access to the net at home – still 1,5 out of 9 million don't feel ”being a part” of the net. This signals something fundamental – there is more than access needed to experience yourself ”included”.

The Stair of Knowledge Applied

To structure the challenge, I will apply what is called the 'knowledge stair'. Within an area of knowledge, you can define four steps. Firstly, you can be unconsciously illiterate – not knowing that you not know. In fact, some so-called ”social media experts” can be in this segment too ;). Secondly, you can be consciously illiterate. You know your blind spots, and then try to do something about it. This can get you to the third level – consciously literate. Beyond this step, a fourth level breathes the Zen Master, the spirit carrying natural wisdom – being unconsciously literate. You just ”have got it”, without reflection. Applied in the area of Digital Participation, this can be viewed as follows.

Living Unconsciously Illiterate – "Off the Line"

"Is there an Internet?". This could be the question for someone living far off the line. Even if Clay Shirky have debunked the myth of ”half of the world have not even seen a telephone”, there is still a far way to go to get everyone online.

Being Consciously Illiterate – "Access the Web"

”If you get it, share it”, we say. But even if you have net access, and someone else doesn't – how do you then share? There are a number of initiatives to increase the access to the web. One program running for years is the initiative from Nicholas Negroponte – the ”hundred dollar laptop” program. AMD ran a program related to this – the AMD 50×15. Meaning to get half of the world with computers and Internet by the year 2015. Other more market based initiatives includes the Grameen Village Phone program and First Mile Solutions. One book/blog covering the ”cell phone developing economies revolution” is ”You Can Hear Me Now – How micro loans and cell phones are connecting the world's poor to the global economy”. We need thousands of socio-techno-economical innovations and entrepreneurial initiatives in this area!

Becoming Consciously Literate – "With the Know"

As said, even if you have access, there is still much to learn. Getting leverage in this field, we need educators, enthusiasts and evangelists of all kinds. Both systematic and informal learning process are needed. ”Educate the educators, who educate the educators”. If we know the world six degrees away, what would happen if we share knowledge within the same network flow? I have had the experience both to learn how email works to some Ugandans some ten years ago, and recently systematic learning sessions of WordPress to long term unemployed in Sweden in my current assignment, and just recently Wikipedia and Twitter classes started. To my joy, I got notified that the WordPress learning resource http://learn.wordpress.com is online, and immediately I raised my hand to say – ”hey, I can translate this into Swedish!”. Many of the learnings on this level is technical, but to fully ”get it”, we can get it to another level.

Living Unconsciously Literate – "In the Flow"

To truly ”get into the flow”, and knowing the deep transformational aspects of being there, you just need to give yourself the open mind, the time, and the energy. Wisdom is hard to transfer, so I can only say, ”you know what I mean”.

What's Next?

There are thousands of answers we need to collaboratively seek on the ”how”. To me, instinctively and with a reflex these days, I always think ”Community” and ”Crowdsourcing”. What could be better to instigate the committed in this field with a virtual platform. But we need to hurry – wikiwikiwiki! I will share an outline for this plan of action next month.