To Get the Poor Online, Let Them Have Cat Videos

Tech leaders err with their too-serious ambitions: Manu Joseph

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 17, 2013 12:18 PM CDT

(Newser) – It's great that Mark Zuckerberg and other tech leaders are pushing to bring Internet access to the Third World, but they need to lighten up a little, writes Manu Joseph in the New York Times. These efforts always have such oh-so-serious goals expressed in the "grave tone of social reformation." Somehow, the tech leaders always forget about one fundamental characteristic of the Internet: It's fun. This is actually a crucial point, writes Joseph. "Fun, even in poor countries, is a profound human need," and the tech world is littered with noble-sounding programs (witness One Laptop Per Child) that never amount to much because their creators misunderstand their audience.

Consider that the Indian government is trying mightily to connect its poor to the Internet, but it's usually via government offices so they can watch videos about plumbing and the like. In short, it's boring. The "belief that connectivity is a human right is honorable," writes Joseph. But where the tech gurus "err is in imagining that fun is not, and in underestimating the power of entertainment to transform society." Goofing off on the computer or "chatting with friends online may not save the world, but if it can get more people to log on, the rest will follow." Click for Joseph's full column.

  (Shutterstock)
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