John McCarthy of Stanford University has the following in his .signature file:
Those who refuse to do arithmetic are doomed to speak nonsense.
Over the years I have seen too many instances of errant nonsense that a little bit of arithmetic would have prevented. I think that the power of arithmetic is not fully appreciated. Even people in very powerful positions utter complete nonsense when they refuse to do simple calculations.
To confront the cliches and shibboleths of one’s age is neither easy nor rewarding. The emperor’s new clothes exist only in the imagination of those committed to maintaining an obvious falsehood for fear of falling out of favor. I believe it is time that we examine some of the ICT related myths that drape the development emperor. I will categorize them as myths, misunderstandings, misconceptions, and misapprehensions and number them randomly. I may even intersperce them with some facts.
Misapprehension #78: There is a digital divide and it is the cause of retarded development. Hence, if we bridge the digital divide, development will occur.
Yesterday I noted one question posed at the Policy Makers’ Workshop:
Can ICTs be useful for rural and remote areas of developing countries, especially the poverty-stricken regions?
We need to examine that question for a moment. At one level of analysis, it is hard to not answer that question in the affirmative. At another level, it is a meaningless question. Merely because it is syntactically correct does not imply that it has any content. Consider the question:
Can magnetic levitation superfast monorail transportation systems be useful for rural and remote areas of developing countries, especially the poverty-stricken regions?
Clearly, yes. Not just magnetic levitation superfast monorail transportation systems, but an almost unending variety of things would be useful for the development of poverty-stricken remote areas. Not merely for those areas, all of those unending variety of things would be useful for the development of not so remote and not so poverty-stricken areas of any developing country. Thus that question is actually content-free.