Stupidity in the new media era?


I love to discuss new media issues from its content aspect. Of course, new media is not only about its content, but also about its technology’s infrastructure and medium itself. Wikipedia defines new media is “a term meant to encompass the emergence of digital, computerized, or networked information and communication technologies in the later part of the 20th century”.

To some extend, seems new media designated as a response to, what we called as, the digital divide. The term digital divide refers, still according to Wikipedia, to the gap between those people with effective access to digital and information technology and those without.

Unfortunately, many prefer talk about this issue only from its affordability side, Economic Divide. According to Jakob Nielsen, most commentators view this in purely economic terms. However, Nielsen revealed, two other types of divide will have much greater impact in the years to come: Usability Divide and Empowerment Divide.

Usability Divide: Far worse than the economic divide is the fact that technology remains so complicated that many people couldn’t use a computer even if they got one for free.

Enpowerment Divide: The empowerment divide, however, is the hard one: even if computers and the Internet were extraordinarily easy to use, not everybody would make full use of the opportunities that such technology affords.

So, I just recalled the Nielsen’s Three Stages of Digital Divide (especially its second and third stages) when read the news this morning that Indonesian Ministry of Education already published names, addresses and details of 36 million students in the country in their website!

A blogger who broke this news wrote:

The database was put online a while ago but Google had already indexed it by now – if you have kids at school (private, public and religious schools all) – you can try googling them and see what comes out. You can find the FULL FILES in XLS downloadables without too much trouble. Of your children.

The government’s blunder just confirmed one thing: the government officers have lack of capacity and capability in optimizing the new media benefit. They might have a good intent to put online a complete database (“took giant leaps to bridge the digital divide“), but didn’t aware about privacy and security. How could they published the complete addresses and details (even the date of births) in their website?

I just downloaded one of its Excel files, and getting shock reading all details of Indonesian student listed there! (Sure, I will not post any link here for obvious reasons).

Nielsen also writes: “Even government sites that target poorer citizens are usually written at a level that requires a university degree to comprehend.” But it doesn’t happen to the Indonesia’s government – particularly in this case. The sentence should be like this: “Even the country’s government site (especially a particular section of the Indonesian Ministry of Education site) written far below the junior high school student standard”.

Even the teenagers know not to disclose their addresses and DOBs in their Friendster profiles!

Albert Einstein is right when saying: “The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits”.

P.S Other recent blogosphere reactions:


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