Monday, March 8, 2010

Estonian Tech Wizards and Universal Access

Given that in the States we have people arguing that receiving basic health care isn't a human right, it's a relief to read that most people globally feel that another sign of developing civilization--Internet access--should be a right.

But what really caught my eye here was that Estonia, of all countries, is one of the places that has already ruled that it actually is a human right and has wired the whole country (including mobile access). I know next to nothing about Estonia, but one of the facts I do know is that it ranks extraordinarily high in its proportion of women in technology. Nearly 70% of those employed in science and technology in Estonia are women. I don't exactly think that the high proportion of women in tech is the cause of the advanced thinking on global information access...or, well, maybe I do. It makes sense that a country that sees technology as not being gendered would see it as being plain old human, much as our need to drink water and transport ourselves. By not having vague implicit ideas of restricted access by gender (which most of us in the States have--when was the last time you heard "tech gal" instead of "tech guy"?), restrictions are lifted across the board.

There's also a chance that the very notion of universal access in places that place a premium on gender equality in tech is shaped by the actual women in the field. Most of the open-access zealots I know are men, but then, I'm American. Despite this field of advancement, Estonia is far from a women's paradise, so I can't help but think that women in comparatively privileged positions (tech) would feel strongly that global information access is a necessity, for very concrete reasons in addition to tech-utopian ones.

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