Using ICT in ODL for Curbing Neo-Elitism and Building Human Infrastructure

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF2 // As much as there is hope that the emerging technologies will lead us to healthier lives, greater social freedoms, increased knowledge and more productive livelihoods, there is despair that these very technologies deepen the information/knowledge gap among countries and societies within them. While there is a huge enthusiasm to be part of the network age, characterized by the technological revolutions and globalization that are increasingly integrating markets and connecting people across all traditionally known barriers, there is also great fear about its implications for developing countries. That the globalization-induced and trade-oriented Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) regime considers knowledge a commodity, as opposed to a public good, is but one example that legitimizes the fear. But, are there ways to bridge the savage cleavage between hope and despair, and between confidence and fear? However paradoxical it may sound, only technology can provide a solution to the problem it creates. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the giant technology strides made in the North and the concomitantly increasing imbalances, it is important for the South, housing most of the world’s population, to firm up its public policies focusing on human development, a manifestation of which is, among others, wider educational access and better public health. A pro-poor slant in public policies will help ensure national economic growth that can efficiently address the issue of marketdriven technology innovations. A strong political will combined with robust policies encompassing education and information and communications technology (ICT) will help accelerate the efforts of the developing countries to equip themselves to defy the challenges of the network age, and this is the basic premise of this paper. // In order to put the discussion in perspective, this paper begins with an overview of what human development entails and touches upon how it is inextricably linked to technological innovations. Acknowledging the reality of digital exclusion, the paper then observes that technology is the effect of, and not merely the cause for, human development. Looking at the open learning situation against the technology-driven scenario, this paper holds the view that it is not so much the extent of the use of ICT that divides people as the purpose for which and the resourcefulness with which it is used. The paper further postulates that the ICT-mediated/enabled open and distance learning (ODL) will curb the technology-induced educational elitism, i.e., neo-elitism, and, in so doing, help contribute to human development. //