Re: Unicode and the digital divide.

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Fri May 31 2002 - 16:38:11 EDT

William Overington opined:

> Yet I am very concerned that I may be in effect being told
> here that Unicode is only really intended for people with the very latest
> equipment using expensive solutions that are only realistically available
> to rich corporations.

I myself am very concerned about issues of economic disparity in the
world and access to and control over IT systems and their impact on
nations and peoples' lives.


The concept of Unicode being a wedge issue for the digital divide just
strikes me as blowing smoke.

The issue is *NOT* hardware. Take a look at The
very, very, bottom-end system, a "Dimension 2200" desktop, comes these
days with a 1.3GHz Intel Celeron chip, oodles of multimegabytes of SDRAM,
a 20- to 40GB hard drive, a 4MB of video memory. That machine, which can
jump circles around even a top-of-the-line PC of just a few years ago,
is listed at a base price of $669. These machines are now approaching
supercomputer capabilities, at Radio Shack everyday consumer electronics
prices. And if you can't afford one yourself, you can rent access to

The issue is *NOT* the OS. All Dell PC's come pre-loaded with MS Windows
XP right now. And guess what -- all that Unicode functionality is packed
right under the hood in XP, waiting to go.

If you are just talking about word-processing Unicode documents, these
combinations of machines and OS are busy bringing these capabilities
to the masses -- the only barrier is the educational one of letting
people know how to use the stuff right under their fingertips. And if
*that* is still too expensive, in another 3 years, *THESE* machines will
be sitting in the digital scrapheaps, where they can be picked up by
funds-starved organizations for a song, if they use a little ingenuity.

No, the digital divide is all about *BIG* systems. Huge database-driven,
integrated systems that require millions of dollars worth of software
and tens of millions of dollars worth of consulting, to operate
enterprise businesses, governments, militaries, and the like. *Those*
are the systems that lock out the little guys and concentrate economic
power and information control into big organizations.

If you are concerned about the digital divide, then Unicode on the
web, and all that distributed processing and informational power in
those consumer PC's loaded up with Unicode-handling software for a
pittance, are your *friends* in the struggle to keep all economic
power from concentration in the top 0.01% of the world's hands.


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