Media for Games, Media for Life

When I heard a story on NPR this morning
about video games on cellphones, I was reminded of the story of an African woman
who didn’t know her husband had died while traveling because she was too far
from a telephone.

When I heard a story on NPR this morning about video games for cellphones, I was reminded of another story, this one of an African woman who didn’t know her husband had died while traveling because she was too far from a telephone.

There’s been a torrent of copy and comment about cellphone content. It’s the next big thing, according to some technology writers. I believe there is some truth in this, at least for those who are early adopters and who are information addicts and want to access information wherever and whenever they can get it.

But the story on NPR caused a pang of incredulity. While some are creating games to allow cellphone users to while away time, others on this earth don’t have access to the most basic and important information they need to live and sustain relationships. This lack of access to information is a quality of life issue, even a justice issue.

The story I referred to above was about a man from Burundi who traveled to South Africa to attend a church meeting. While there he became ill and died. The sponsors of the meeting tried in vain to contact his family, who live in a remote part of rural Burundi. They were unscuccessful.

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When he didn’t return as expected, his wife set out to search for him. Eventually she made her way to South Africa and the organization that sponsored the meeting. She learned her husband had died and was buried in South Africa.

Her exerience turns the old adage about bad news upside down. Sometimes no news is bad news.

In a knowledge-based world, access to communication technologies and information isn’t something to be left to the market place alone. When the digital divide results in discrepancies as wide as this, those of us who are concerned about media and its influence must be concerned about equity and fairness.

Access to information is a basic human right, essential to human dignity and to a just and democratic society, according to teaching found in the Proper Use of Information Communication Technologies in the Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church. It’s more relevant today than ever.

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