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Copyright

Title: The Digital Divide
Editor: Benjamin Compaine
Publisher: MIT Press
Copyright: 2001
ISBN: 0-262-53193-3
Pages: 340
Price: $29.95
Rating: 82%
Editor Benjamin M. Compaine structures the debate over the gap in access to computers in general, and the Internet in particular, along the lines of the age-old argument one often hears between siblings.

Yes it is.
The first set of essays have scads of tables, numbers and statistics, graphs and charts. It makes a pretty compelling argument if you can make any sense of it. It is dry reading, so bring your own water bottle.

No it's not.
A much more entertaining series of ethnographic studies, history,
anecdotal evidence and politics. It's much easier on the mind. Depending on one's viewpoint, it may be less convincing or more convincing than the first set or arguments. It's more about why we should do nothing than anything else. In short, kick back with Coke and popcorn, enjoy yourself, and let the market take care of it.

YES, it IS!
More graphs. More charts. More numbers. Some ideas about what to do. It documents efforts to wire schools and libraries in rural and urban districts and makes a good case that better access has real results.

NO, it's NOT!
This argument does have one good point: the Internet is moving too fast for public policy to get ahead or even track close behind. The pre-tech stock crash time-frame does affect the optimism of the essay's authors. In the post-bubble economy, it is not wholly convincing that the market will serve the public interest.

The Digital Divide is a seminal work, no doubt. Anyone wanting a good background for understanding telecommunications policy should read it. One thing that does bother me is that, in laying out both the yes and no arguments, the authors continue to state and restate the obvious. Poor people have less access. No kidding!

In ivory towers where the air is thin, academics debate whether the divide exists. Here on the ground, on the salary of a working man rather than the options-inflated remuneration of the digiterati, it's pretty clear. There is a digital divide. Computers in libraries and classrooms have helped, but as a society, we have a long way to go. Would that The Digital Divide provided a better road map.


M. E. Tyler's work has appeared in national magazines and high-profile web sites. A former software developer, Tyler has an eclectic technical background, programming for both the Mac and Windows and working as a Web site developer. Tyler was the ebook review editor for ForeWord Magazine and the editor-in-chief for ForeWord Reviews, and is the regular book review columnist for Writer's Exchange and for eBook Web. Tyler owns Private Ice Publications, a niche publishing house dedicated to publishing the best sports fiction for women.