My theory of change is that access to information is power and transformative and that the digital divide will not be bridged without considering the language and fluency challenges of those at the base of the pyramid. Â Â
In the developed world, access to information has been transformed by the combination of the internet and mobile phones encouraging self-directed inquisitiveness and problem solving. Collectively this engagement creates a virtuous cycle promoting more content and more tools connecting more questions to more answers. In addition, monitoring this activity can support broader social listening (e.g. trending topics) and the promotion of new voices.
For the developing world, access to information can be equally transformative, disrupting traditional power. Self-directed access to information could for example, help individuals close market gaps (e.g. eliminate middlemen in transactions) or educate themselves towards better health or farming practices. Finally, monitoring this on-line engagement could amplify previously unheard voices and organic solutions.
The developed world business model for creating tools for connecting questions and answers (speech recognizers, search engines, translation) is profit based. 80% of global GDP covers only 18 languages, so there is little market incentive to expand these costly tools. A new model needs to be developed to gap the digital divide and replicate the virtuous cycle that information access has created in the developed world.