Friedman Might Be Right About the Importance of Getting Technology to Rural Areas

Friedman Might Be Right About the Importance of Getting Technology to Rural Areas

Faster Internet Speeds in Rural Communities Could Lead to Increased Access to Education and More Job Opportunities

I just read an opinion piece by Thomas Friedman of the New York Times which focused on the Republican party platform, globalization, and the spread of technology throughout the world. Friedman’s contention has long been that “the world is flat” because of the rapid speed of technology through the world and that technology will be the saving grace for the world. In THIS article, he applies this thinking about technology and the Internet to rural communities.

I don’t always agree with Friedman, but in this case, I definitely do. Friedman observes that in South Korea, the government is pushing for all homes in the nation to have Internet connectivity at one gigabyte per second. Because South Korea is known for its online gaming, some might say that connecting all homes to high-speed Internet is a waste of time and a costly endeavor that will just lead to more Internet addiction--a huge buzz word in South Korea.

I disagree. I spent ten years teaching English in South Korea and watched as South Korea thrived when Koreans were able to connect to each other and the world on the World Wide Web. When I returned to the United States from South Korea, I briefly taught for Promise cyber-school; I taught Korean students in rural schools at odd hours of the night from the confines and comfort of my living room. I used a white board and taught the students in real time.

Without a high-speed connection, the students in the rural areas would not have had the same access to an English education from native speakers. The question of whether native speakers are crucial to the English-learning process is best left to both education and linguistic experts.

Irregardless, because South Korean students have to take a university entrance exam, the ability to even attempt to put rural students on par with students in Seoul in terms of their education is far beyond what is being done in the United States currently. South Korea is fast to capitalize on technology and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more cyber-classrooms throughout hard-to-access places in Korea. According to Friedman, the United States is still trying to get an average bandwidth speed with to rural areas, which makes the likelihood of rural students being able to access real-time cyber-schools unlikely.

Increased bandwidth speeds to rural areas could be a way for those living in the country to receive better education, to work from home, and to remain better connected with the outside world. Whether increased connectivity for those living in rural areas remains something for them to see.