The Words of the Kaufmann Family

Digital Divide

Frank Kaufmann
September 4, 2000

This talk was prepared for presentation at the State of the World Forum Conference, held at the United Nations September 4 - 10, 2000.

Honorable President Abdurrahman Wahid, Respected Chairman Dr. Wally N’dow, Esteemed delegates of the State of the World Forum.

The concept of a digital divide is important. People concerned with the expansion of a global economy in the information age, and also with the spiritual and humanitarian issue of human equality rightly mark the digital divide as a core concept which must be carefully analyzed and addressed.

But even though this is an important and complex matter in its own way, it should be seen as a narrow concern in the larger scheme of things. It should not be allowed to dominate the attention of leaders and visionaries who are passionate about human equality in an emerging global village. Surely experts in economics, information technology, and related fields must devote all their wisdom to the problem, but the issue should not be treated in isolation from the larger and more fundamental moral, social and international issues.

If we step back for a second we will see that the digital divide is only the latest poster-boy in our endless chase for the culprit which makes rich people richer, and poor people poorer. If it weren’t computers and Internet access, it would be having bigger sticks, or living closer to the river. The particular externals that contribute to widening disparity and human inequality at any given point in history is never the real issue. Analyzing the latest particular villain will never finally yield the long sought solution.

Still. I repeat, the digital divide is a fascinating and important problem which deserves the best minds in related fields to examine solutions.

The problem of human inequality and the tools which give economic, political, and military advantage have two distinct responses which harden into the ideological ground for political division. The United Nations like all attempts at democracy suffers enormously from this form of political division, and descends into corruption and underhanded politics because of these competing ideologies.

One could summarize this division in the following imaginary conversation:

Person A says, "You have too much, we must devise ways to force you to share equally."
Person B says, "No, you must allow us to use and invest these gifts and talents so we can further develop in ways which will benefit everybody."
Person A answers, "No. After you further invest and develop, you do not share. You only further deprive the others."

These politics go on eternally, and each side fights using all means, whether noble or otherwise to win the day.

The debate about the digital divide is nothing other than the latest chapter in this endless cycle. Moralistic attempts at forced redistribution versus the claim that further development ultimately will be for the good of all.

In my view, there is only one way to address the problem of increasing inequality, and to gradually dissolve the endless war of political ideologies (which debilitates the UN just like it does politics at all levels). The way requires that a paradigm be found for influencing human social behavior in such a way that it naturally moves toward equalization, but not in such a way that it holds hostage those who have been blessed, and who sacrifice and take risks to improve and grow.

I commend as that ideal social paradigm, the in tact, God centered, natural family. This social unit contains the precise mechanism and dynamic by which to dissolve such problems as the digital divide. Some may think this view is naive or that the connection between family, and a real global economic problem like the digital divide is too remote. But I assure you it is neither.

The problem is human inequality, not computers. The problem is how to respond to forces with foster ever greater inequality. It is in response to that problem most fundamental of problems, that the family clearly emerges as the first battle ground for the challenge of inequality. The family is the place where the influence of true love naturally meets inequality with a compassionate response, both in heart, and in substantial reality.

In a family we know all types of inequality, some family members might be old and frail, some might be rich by comparison, while the five year old could be seen as poor by comparison. Between the daughter in college, and the son in 4th grade there is even a digital divide! Mom and Dad have plenty of money, more training and more skills, than their little children. Does this mean that the parents exploit their advantage to expand their dominance over all the other family members?

With such extreme human inequality one should think that the family would need the greatest imposition of laws and forced redistribution of resources. But the very opposite is true. In a loving God-centered family, inequality is forever and constantly dissolved on a moment to moment basis. The college sister happily ends the digital divide showing her little brother how to use the computer (and maybe even getting him one some day), the rich parents teach their little ones the secrets of work and earning, and so forth, while providing appropriate ‘earnings’ for their little ones in terms of ‘allowance’..

This author holds unequivocally to a call for the redistribution of wealth, but recognizes that this can never occur by force, whether by violent means, legislative compulsion, or any other means which does not accomplish a heart of consent. The natural impulse for the redistribution of wealth and resources originates in the true love of the family, and expands systematically through each larger social unit, including nations and the world.

On the world level, family-like redistribution of wealth and resources, including an effective response to the digital divide, comes through voluntary transfer of technology. (And not only technology but the human educational resources to teach effective use of the technology.) The IIFWP, and the many organizations founded by Reverend Moon, have called for the free transfer of technology in public documents since 1986, and in private teachings long prior to that. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, many of these organizations have been actively involved in the substantial, free transfer of technology for developing countries.

We are committed to continue with our commitment to human equality, to the free transfer of technology, and we will gladly support United Nations initiatives which pursue these same ideals of human dignity and shared prosperity.

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