In the Information Age, information is power. Who produces all that information, how does it move around, who uses it, to what ends, and under what constraints? Who gets that power? And what happens to the people who have no access to it?
Disconnected begins with a striking vignette of two men: One is the thriving manager of a company selling personal computers and computer services. The other is just one among thousands of starving laborers. He has no way to find the information that might help him find a job, he cannot afford newspapers, rarely sees television, cannot understand the dialect of local radio broadcasts, will probably never touch a computer. These two men happen to live in Windhoek, Namibia, but this is not a story about Africa––it is a story that could be repeated almost anywhere in the world, even next door.
With vivid anecdotes and data, William Wresch contrasts the opportunities of the information-rich with the limited prospects of the information-poor. Surveying the range of information––personal, public, organizational, commercial––that has become the currency of exchange in today’s world, he shows how each represents a form of power. He analyzes the barriers that keep people information-poor: geography, tyranny, illiteracy, psychological blinders, “noise,” crime. Technology alone, he demonstrates, is not the answer. Even the technology-rich do not always get access to important information––or recognize its value.
Wresch spells out the grim consequences of information inequity for individuals and society. Yet he ends with reasons for optimism and stories of people who are working to pull down the impediments to the flow of information.