Free/Libre Open Source Software for Bridging the Digital Divide

Free/Libre Open Source Software for Bridging the Digital Divide

Yu-Wei Lin (University of York, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-060-8.ch010
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Abstract

As some scholars claim, the digital divide, referring to the perceived gap between those who have access to the latest information technologies and those who do not, entails that not having access to this information is an economic and social handicap (Compaine, 2001). In software design, structured inequalities operate along the main axes of gender, race/ethnicity and class. Each of these in turn generates its own structure of unequal practices giving rise to institutionalised sexism, racism or class divisions/conflict. “Gender, race and class also crosscut each other in various complex ways, sometimes reinforcing and at other times weakening the impact of existing inequalities” (Cohen & Kennedy, 2000, p. 100). For instance, Webster’s research (1996) employing feminist approaches to study computer system designs addresses the issue of a male-dominated system design field, which continuously excludes female users’ needs, requirements, interests and values in the innovation process. She criticises that, “Human factors may be bolted onto existing methods of systems design, local and contingent knowledge of work and information handling processes held by users in an amorphous sense may now even be incorporated into the systems design process, but this does not create an awareness of the way in which skills and knowledge are defined in gender-divided terms” (p. 150).

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