Reaching across the divide: The challenges of using the Internet to bridge disparities in access to information

Andie Miller


Over the past few years, the Internet has rapidly become part of the daily lives of most people in the first world. This trend in easy access to unlimited information resources for first world users mirrors the growing 'central-peripheral divide' in the developing world: the concentration of wealth in the major urban centres and the increasing marginalisation of people in the peri-urban and rural areas. The result of both trends is that the majority of the world's population, particularly on the African continent, has limited access to most information resources.
The Internet provides the opportunity to reach a broader cross-section of the virtual community of all those concerned with the issues of violence, crime, reconciliation, human rights and transformation, whilst at the same time, the challenge of resisting the (re)marginalisation and exclusion of grassroots constituencies who have limited skills and access to these resources.
The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) is a multi-disciplinary South African non-governmental organisation. Drawing on the experience of making the CSVR's 13 years of research available online, this paper traces the balancing act that has been required in reaching across the divide, and details some of the design challenges that have presented themselves. It explores the phenomenon of "graceful degradation", and examines some of the challenges facing NGOs using this exciting new medium.

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