Aleph Molinari Bridges the Digital Divide

Written By: Amy Prtichard

Economist Aleph Molinari has set out to save the world. Much like the healing benefits of one acupuncture needle in the correct spot, technology can be inserted into various locales to heal the world. He professes that technology isn’t going to save the world, we are. Human energy can use technology as “a tool for change.”  With 70% of the world’s population disconnected from technology, Molinari created an organization called RIA: Learning and Innovation Network where he has brought technology to over 140,000 people in the past two years. Molinari’s empowering lecture promotes a level of social-consciousness that forces the digitally included to look at how we can access change in the digitally excluded.

The digital divide is the gap between individuals and communities that have access to information technologies and those who don’t. The users who have access, or those who are considered digitally included, make up 30% of the world’s population. If mapped, most of those users are found in North America and Europe, with most of the Internet connections and digital traffic worldwide occurring between these two continents. Molinari wants to reach the digitally excluded because he states they are, “less informed, less inspired, less responsible, and can’t compete in global markets.”

World map illuminates Internet connections, most of which are generated between North America and Europe, also known as the digitally included.
world-wide Internet connections

In order to reach as many digitally excluded people as possible he uses a process called urban acupuncture. Field agents travel into communities, analyze the geography, asses the local culture, and set up RIA stations in the place where most people will have optimum access. He plants his RIA station, as an acupuncturist places a needle, in the one spot that will heal the entire body. His plan not only reaches a multitude of people, but does so in a way that will not heavily impact the environment such as by placing computers in the hands of every user, which will incur Internet costs, maintenance, and potential landfill waste. The environmentally-conscious RIA stations are set up to bring the people to the technology, train them, and give them the tools to become digital citizens.

As the digitally excluded enter the RIA stations Molinari has developed a system to bridge the digital divide. The first part of the process is the computers, second is the Internet, and third is office software. The fourth phase is comprised of 72 hours of technology training with the end product being a digital citizen.

Molinari’s lecture is inspiring for those of us digitally included. He affirms the importance of the being digitally included and allows us an opportunity to embrace that power and “use technology to make this world a better place. Technology should be a right, not a luxury,” Molinari reminds us.

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