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Morino Institute From Access to Outcomes: Digital Divide Report and Dialogue
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Working Through the Community




Jan 17, 2001


Jonathan Peizer

Actually any major social issue can be divided into two discreet pieces:

1) Material resources

2) Information

Supplying the appropriate medical material resources to deal with the health issue in Nigeria, or even a much smaller country like Sierra Leone, might well bankrupt the economy of even a developed country. However, for a fraction of the cost one can put information infrastructure in place that would solve half the existing problems.

So what if every doctor in a community health center serving a number of villages had access to the internet, information and other doctors to whom he could trade questions, diagnoses etc...? What if with a word processor and printer he could produce health information bulletins (using pictures if literacy was an issue) and distribute them helping to reduce the spread of different diseases? What if he could confer with other doctors and hospitals in his own country and the region on particular issues, outbreaks etc...? Surely many issues would be dealt with through proper techniques of prevention and information dissemination. If you look at education, pro se law, you name it, there is always a material resource as well as an information component that needs to be satisfied.

In the case I mention above, not everyone has or needs Internet access. However, if the access (and training) is put in the hands of the right people (in this case the health workers serving various communities), you can make a significant difference in people's lives at much lower costs even if the other material resources remain scarce.

In this country, the issue is not primarily access anymore. While some might disagree -- come with me up to the borders of Thailand some time and I'll show you access issues ;) Here we have cable and wireless access, Internet TV etc... While I might agree that cost is sometimes an issue, it is much more easy to overcome even this with the significant amount of philanthropy that exists in this country.

It seems to me the issue is more about content, project design, implementation, trusted source relationships and training, training, training....



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