Empowerment, tools and skills

Usability, accessibility, affordability and user empowerment are major mottoes of information society policies. Some have pointed to the immediate problems of access to equipment and affordability of telecommunication or information services, in particular in developing countries. In these countries, affordability of services (for instance for access to scientific information) might be the major issue. Others have claimed than the most serious divisions between have and have-not in the developed world might be between those who are able to make intelligent use of the diversity of media and information exchange mechanisms because they master the relevance of each for given tasks or projects and the skills needed to efficiently use them, and those who are simply terminal consumers of information networks. If we look back at the civilisation of printing and reading, the time needed to develop the tools that enabled critical reading and to obtain widespread literacy was very long. Information technology has the potential to empower users with ability to select, access, discriminate, analyse, assess, critic, re-use information embedded in various media forms, including time-based media that are traditionally associated with passive perception. But how this potential will materialise is still unclear.

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