Hannah and the Digital Divide (@revpamsmith)

Samuel was born to a mother who thought she couldn’t conceive. Hannah, his mother, utters a prayer when she learns that she is to have a child which speaks of the poor being lifted up by God and the arrogant being cast down:

‘My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in my God.*
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in my* victory.

‘There is no Holy One like the Lord,
no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble gird on strength…..

1 Samuel 2.1-4

This got me thinking, in terms of being a digital disciple, about the needs of the poor and how we might meet them.

Maslows hierarchy of needs with internetA cartoon version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has been going round Facebook recently which shows the basic human need as ‘Internet’. This is funny in a Facebook context – most of us who spend a lot of time online will admit that we do feel bereft if our connection is down for any length of time.

But there’s a serious implication to this as well. As more and more of our business is conducted online, people with a good internet connection and the hardware to use it are on one side of a ‘digital divide’ which separates them from people who don’t benefit at all from greater connectivity.

At a time when online petitions allows us to express our views through ‘clicktivism’, and email makes businesses, government departments and news websites more and more accessible, there is the danger that people without the knowledge or equipment to be connected might end up with even less influence than they had before, or even being forgotten about altogether. If you’re poor, or homeless, or can’t read, it’s hard to take advantage of the connectivity that most of us take from granted.

A friend recently posted a link to

http://internet.org/

There isn’t much information there at the moment, but it is the home for a campaign to increase internet connectivity so everyone can benefit from online communications. The campaign is explained in more detail at

https://www.facebook.com/isconnectivityahumanright/isconnectivityahumanright.pdf

Someone on my Twitter timeline has critiqued this idea by saying ‘Let’s sort out hunger first, and then we can get people online’. That may sound sensible, but I wonder if really it is saying that only people who can afford to be online deserve the benefits of being connected that I take for granted?

Hannah’s prayer reminds is that God is a God of knowledge. Surely we shouldn’t allow people to be deprived of the knowledge they need because they can’t afford it?

We need to remember the poor because God remembers them. If the digital divide means it’s easier to ignore the poor, then we need to close it.

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