The digital divide is a mother that's 45 years old and can't get a job, because she doesn't know how to use a computer. It is an immigrant that doesn't know that he can call his family for free. It is a child who can't resolve his homework, because he doesn't have access to information. The digital divide is a new illiteracy. "Digital divide" is also defined as: the gap between individuals and communities that have access to information technologies and those that don't.
Why does this happen? It happens because of 3 things. The first is that people can't get access to these technologies because they can't afford them. The second is because they don't know how to use them. The third is because they don't know the benefits derived from technology. So let's consider some very basic statistics. The population of the world is nearly seven billion people. Out of these, approximately two billion are digitally included. This is approximately 30% of the entire world population, which means that the remaining 70% of the world — close to five billion people — do not have access to a computer or the internet. Let's think about that number for a second. Five billion people; that's four times the population of India, that have never touched a computer, have never accessed the internet. So this is a digital abyss that we're talking about, this is not a digital divide.
Here we can see a map by Chris Harrison that shows the internet connections around the world. What we can see is that most of the internet connections are centered on North America and Europe, while the rest of the world is engulfed in the dark shadow of digital divide. Next, we can see connections, city-to-city, around the world, and we can see that most of the information generated is being generated between North America and Europe, while the rest of the world is not broadcasting their ideas or information. So what does this mean? We are living in a world that seems to be having a digital revolution, a revolution that everyone here thinks that we're part of, but the 70% of the world that is digitally excluded is not part of this.
What does this mean? Well, the people that will be digitally excluded won't be able to compete in the labor markets of the future, they won't be connected, they'll be less informed, they'll be less inspired and they'll be less responsible. Internet should not be a luxury, it should be a right, because it is a basic social necessity of the 21st century. We can't operate without it.
It allows us to connect to the world. It empowers us. It gives us social participation. It is a tool for change. And so, how are we going to bridge this digital divide? Well, there are many models that try and bridge the digital divide, that try and include the population at large. But the question is: Are they really working?
I'm sure everybody here knows One Laptop per Child, where one computer is given to one child. The problem with this is, do we really want children to take computers to their homes, homes that have adverse conditions? And we also must understand that by giving a child a computer, we're also transferring costs, very high costs, such as internet connection, electricity, maintenance, software, updates. So we must create different models, models that help the families rather than add a burden on them. Also, let's not forget about the carbon footprint. Imagine five billion laptops. What would the world look like then? Imagine the hazardous residue that would be generated from that. Imagine the trash. So if we give one computer to one person, and we multiply that times five billion, even if that laptop is a hundred dollars, then we would have 483 trillion dollars. Now let's consider we're only counting the youth, ages 10 to 24. That's approximately 30% of the digitally excluded population. Then that would be 145 trillion dollars. What nation has this amount of money? This is not a sustainable model.
So with this in mind, we created a different model. We created the RIA, in Spanish, or in English, Learning and Innovation Network, which is a network of community centers that bring education through the use of technology. We wanted to increase the number of users per computer in such a way that we could dilute the cost of infrastructure, the cost per user, and that we could bring education and technology to everybody within these communities.
Let's look at a basic comparison. The RIA has 1,650 computers. If we had used the One Laptop per Child model of a 1 to 1 ratio, then we would have benefited 1,650 users. What we did instead is set up centers that have longer hours of operation than schools, that also include all of the population — our youngest user is 3 years old, the oldest is 86 — and with this, in less than two years, we were able to reach 140,000 users, out of which —
out of which, 34,000 have already graduated from our courses.
Another thing with One Laptop per Child is that it doesn't guarantee the educational use of a computer. Technology is nothing without that content. We need to use it as a means, not as an end. How did we accomplish such a high impact? Well, you can't just go into a community and pretend to change it, you need to look at a lot of factors. So what we do is a thing we call "urban acupuncture." We first start by looking at the basic geography of a site. So take, for example, Ecatepec. This is one of the most densely populated municipalities in Mexico. It has a very low income level. So we look at the basic geography, we look at roads, streets, the flux of pedestrians and vehicles. Then we look at income, we look at education. Then we set up a center there in the place that's going to heal the body, a little needle to change the city body. And there we go.
And so, there are four basic elements that we need to consider when we're using education through technology. The first one is we need to create spaces. We need to create a space that is welcoming to the community, a space that is according to the needs of the children and of the elders and of every possible person that lives within that community. So we create these spaces that are all made with recycled materials. We use modular architecture to lower the ecological impact.
And second, connection. By connection, I mean not only a connection to the internet, that's too easy. We need to create a connection that's an interconnection of humans. The internet is a very complex organism that is fueled of the ideas, the thoughts and the emotions of human beings. We need to create networks that aid in exchanging information.
Third, content. Education is nothing without content. And you can't pretend to have a relationship of only a computer with a child. So we create a route, a very basic learning route, where we teach people how to use a computer, how to use the internet, how to use office software, and in 72 hours, we create digital citizens. You can't pretend that people are just going to touch a computer and become digitally included, you need to have a process. And after this, then they can take on a longer educational route.
And then fourth, training. We need to train not only the users, but we need to train the people that will facilitate learning for these people. When you're talking about the digital divide, people have stigmas, people have fears; people don't understand how it can complement their lives. So what we do is train facilitators so that they can help in breaking that digital barrier.
So, we have four elements: we have a space that's created, we have a connection, we have content and we have training. We have created a digital learning community. But there is one more element, which is the benefits that technology can create, because it is not printed, static content. It is dynamic; it is modifiable. So we have we do is, we provide content, then we do training, then we analyze the user patterns so that we can improve content. So it creates a virtuous circle. It allows us to deliver education according to different types of intelligence and according to different user needs. With this in mind, we have to think that technology is something that can modify according to human processes.
I want to share a story. In 2006, I went to live here. This is one of the poorest communities in all of Mexico. I went to film a documentary on the people that live off trash, entirely of trash — their houses are built with trash, they eat trash, they dress in trash. And after two months of living with them, of seeing the children and the way they work, I understood that the only thing that can change and that can break the poverty cycle is education. And we can use technology to bring education to these communities. Here is another shot.
The main message is that technology is not going to save the world; we are, and we can use technology to help us. I'm sure everybody here has experienced it; what moves technology is human energy. So let's use this energy to make the world a better place.