As we discuss access, I think it's important to keep in mind that
"access" is more than just the physical deployment of the technology,
but also to what extent it has an accessible, meaningful

APC, on their interesting website for which Jane gave us the pointer,
states that "ICT tools should therefore be available to all so that
ordinary people can make their voices heard." "Tools" can be read to
mean a lot of things, and I'd tend to include software, multilingual
capabilities, and innovative use of the technology to give a wider range
of people "meaningful" access. Indeed, access itself can be
disaggregated into several concerns.

A Telecommons report "Rural Access to Information and Communication
Technologies: The Challenge for Africa"
<> highlights a useful
breakdown of the notion of "access" (p. 7): "In considering the issues
of rural access, the authors make the distinction between 'physical
access' to ICT infrastructure and applications, and 'soft access', which
we define as software and applications which are designed to enable
rural African users to utilize ICTs for their own needs and uses once
the physical access has been established."

Another dimension in the amorphous "access" discussions is that of user
skills, even in places like North America where "soft access" is not as
much an issue (because Web designers there are constantly trying to
anticipate users, and they all pretty much speak and use the same
language(s) anyway). For more on this
<> .

The soft access and user skill issues bring in a broader range of policy
concerns extending to software localization, language, and education,
for instance.  Hard access alone may serve mainly to replicate the much
referred to "digital divide" on ever more local levels, with perhaps
some "tickle down" benefits (to mix metaphors) as some with new hard
access begin to work on soft access tools (which is what seems to be
happening in the Joko clubs in Senegal for instance).  The main point
here is that proactive attention to soft access issues while we discuss
expanding hard access, may benefit more people sooner and more surely.

Don Osborn         [EMAIL PROTECTED]
*Bisharat! A language, technology & development initiative
*Bisharat! Initiative langues - technologie - developpement

Jane Stander <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> wrote:

> One of the most important ways we in Africa will spread access to ICT is
> through changing the policy structure. Right now, most countries have
> policies that discourage companies, and even nonprofits, from bringing
> ICTs to the rural areas. We have to press our governments to make
> changes in policies, but it is hard to know what the "right" policies
> are. I do not necessarily believe that whatever the World Bank or other
> donors believe to be the right policies are actually best for us in
> Africa. And what is good for one country in Africa may not be good for
> another. I came across this APC website that I think will help us
> examine policies and decide what is best for ourselves.

> -------------------------------------------------

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