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Information Society



by Richard Sidaway

Once upon a time societies were organised around religion, farming, trade or industry. In many parts of the world today this is still true, but something else is becoming more important - the exchange of information, and the technology that we use to do this. Twenty-four hour news, e-commerce, international call-centres, mobile phones, Global Positioning Systems … all these are making the world smaller and faster.

The growth in telecommunications is now giving more and more people access to democratic ideas, to the principles of international law and human rights, to the science that will help their country to develop or to the medical knowledge that can fight disease. It is starting a real global village which people only dreamed of a generation ago.

But how can everybody in the world share the recent technological advances? Millions of people cannot read these words because they don’t have access to a computer. They don’t understand English either, the language that 80% of the information is written in. They don’t even have a telephone. They are more worried about how far they will have to walk today to get clean water or if they can feed themselves and their families. For most people on this planet, information is not a priority.

The contrast between countries that have information technology and those that don’t is called the ‘digital divide’. Scandinavia and South East Asia have a high number of people who use Information Communication Technologies (ICT). Central Africa and the Pacific have almost none.

The United Nations is trying to make the information society a reality for more of the developing world. It wants to see rich countries transfer new technology and knowledge to poorer nations.

Ten years from now, the plan is that everybody in the world will have a radio or television and that 50% of the world’s population will have access to the internet from schools and universities, health centres and hospitals, libraries and museums. This will improve medical care and education, science and agriculture, business opportunities and employment. At the same time, they say, local communities, languages and cultures will become stronger.

Just a dream? Certainly there are some contradictions. Does only good come with freedom of information? If information is power, why will people share it? Doesn’t more technology mean fewer jobs? And how can the exchange of information keep local cultures alive if most of that information is only in one language?

It is much easier to get people connected to broadband or put government online in Europe than in South America or the Middle East. However, developing countries often leapfrog the process which richer nations went through, and avoid their mistakes. Brazil collects most of its taxes online these days. There are cyber cities in Dubai and Mauritius. And Taiwan and Hong Kong have better access to ICT than the United Kingdom. Maybe the English language isn’t so important after all.

Perhaps the spread of technology means that the old centres of power are also changing. The United States introduced internet technology in the 1970s. But people are asking why they should continue to be in charge. Why should a small organisation in California tell the rest of the world how computers talk to each other?

The US says it makes the rules, but it doesn’t control the flow of information. The domain name system (DNS) controls how internet addresses work, but not what a website or database contains. Many want a more international approach, however. But they also want the internet to remain open and free for all to use.

Can the world create an information society for all? If a farmer in Bangladesh can read this in the year 2015, then maybe the answer is yes.

1. The main idea of the text is that _____

A everybody in the world shares the recent technological advances.

B the exchange of information and technology development are extremely important for today’s world.

C many years ago societies didn’t need the exchange of information.

D many people cannot read because they don’t have access to a computer

2. For many people in developing countries information is not a priority because _____

A they don’t want to learn English

B they think that the use of the computer can have bad influence on their health.

C they prefer face-to-face communication.

D they have so many problems in satisfying their physical needs that they don’t have time to think about modern technologies.

3. The term ‘digital divide’ is used to describe _____

A the contrast between countries that have information technology and those that don’t.

B people who principally ignore ICT.

C the regular use of ICT.

D any digital device.

4. The main reason why the United Nations wants the new technology to be spread in developing countries is to _____

A let everybody in the world have access to the Internet.

B improve the exchange of information.

C make local communities, languages and cultures stronger.

D provide the freedom of information in every place of the world.

5. According to the text, one of the challenges of spreading the informational technology is that _____

A the spread of technology doesn’t obviously mean the growth of working places.

B the local cultures don’t need any support.

C everybody in the world will have a radio or television.

D the freedom of information is a utopia.

 

A PRACTICAL ENGLISH GRAMMAR: Present Simple Passive

The passive of an active tense is formed by putting the verb to be into Present Simple (is/am/are) + the past participle of the active verb. The subject of the active verb becomes the ‘agent’ of the passive verb. The agent is very often not mentioned. When it is mentioned it is preceded by by and placed at the end of the clause.

Active: clean(s), see(s) etc.

Passive: am/is/are cleaned, seen etc

Somebody cleans this room every day.

This room is cleaned every day.

The tree was planted by my grandfather.

Exercise 1. Complete the sentences with the present simple passive of the verb in brackets.

1. Glass ……. (recycle) in Britain.

2. These stereos …….. (not / produce) in Japan.

3. Alcohol ….. (not / drink) in schools.

4. Jam …… (make) from fruit.

5. French ….. (speak) in some parts of Canada.

6. The Olympic Games ….. (watch) by millions of people.

7. Cars ……. (make) in Poland.

8. Sandwiches …… (not / sell) in banks.