Tag Archives: 11/02/2015

Connectivity and Internet Literacy Are Not Linear

2) A thought-provoking (and related question): Should there be some form of internet technology and governance literacy? Given how central the internet is as a platform for politics, cultural, and social life – does the Internet require a different kind of citizenship responsibility?

The topic of internet literacy has been on my mind since I observed the repercussions … or more like the unbeknownst effects of internet illiteracy on the rural Paraguayan community I lived in while serving in the Peace Corps. Undoubtedly, however, internet illiteracy exists in the most connected countries as well, since connectivity and internet literacy do not have a linear correlation.

There are millions of people in developed and developing countries that have internet access, but whose “cyber capabilities” are at a novice level. I also want to point out that in contrast to school subjects, like reading, math and geography, internet literacy is such a new field in the context of human development that age does not equal experience. We can’t say, for example, “His cyber capabilities are at an eighth-grade level,” especially when the average eighth-grader in the United State would most likely have more cyber skill than the average 50-year-old.

So, while cyber capabilities aren’t related to age in the traditional sense, they are related to the cultural induction of cyber technologies in other aspects of life; banking, bill paying, registering for classes, shopping, socializing, etc., as a push to learn.

For example, a large portion of the middle-class families in my Paraguayan community had internet capable smart phones. However, their literacy was extremely weak. Why? The community hadn’t yet absorbed the internet as the leap-frogging technology it is capable of being in business, financial institutions, the government, or, most importantly, education. Thus, there were very few requirements put on Paraguayans to incorporate internet skills into their lives – specifically outside of the country’s urban centers.

Cyber capabilities are also related to language (*with the majority of websites being in English), affordability and the speed of an internet connection. And while these factors fall under the internet governance umbrella, if there is no cultural push to incorporate the internet, cyber know-how will definitely be stunted.

And being that the incorporation of the internet into a culture today is the most dire and disruptive technology in steps toward development and progress, it would be silly not to educate the illiterate … and yet online literacy still seems to be an ‘if you build it, it will come’ afterthought.

*According to a few unsubstantiated websites, and with “less than five percent of current world languages” being used online, wrote the Washington Post.