Santa Clara University

STS Nexus

Editor's Overview


“Fixing the Digital Divide”
By Sherrie Benjamin

Eric D. Carlson

In this issue we present four articles that come from the presentations made at the Santa Clara University, Center for Science, Technology, and Society (CSTS) Conference, Digital Divide or Digital Commons: Toward Global Knowledge Sharing, held April 21, 2005, on the Santa Clara University campus. The conference, attended by nearly 400 representatives from academia, business, non-profit organizations, and governments from around the world, featured four panel sessions: Developing a Digital Knowledge Commons, Institutional Frameworks for Global Knowledge, Legal and Economic Frameworks for Global Knowledge, and Infrastructural Frameworks for Global Knowledge. The papers selected for this issue of the STS NEXUS represent the breadth and depth of the topics of the conference, as well as the global diversity of the presenters and attendees.


In the first article, John Leslie King presents a concise description of the evolution of knowledge infrastructure, from its origins in manuscripts and collections through the latest developments in digital libraries. While this article is taken from Professor King’s remarks in the final session of the conference, it serves well as an introduction for this issue by summarizing the global origin and global importance of knowledge sharing to cultural and economic development and history.


Pedro Hepp’s article presents a specific example of creating a “digital commons” for the educational system in Chile.  Hepp describes the results of 15 years of building “digital bridges” using personal computers and the Internet to bring global knowledge sharing to most of the students and teachers in Chile.  Hepp illustrates how, despite many structural problems, scarce resources, and cultural challenges, Chile has managed to start a transformation that is helping the country use digital resources to improve the education and lives of its citizens.


From the background of the use of mobile phones and video compact disk players among farmers in the Philippines, Roberto Verzola’s article suggests strategies for low-cost use of technologies for knowledge sharing in developing countries.  Verzola then raises a legal issue (Intellectual Property Rights) and an economic dilemma (the emergence of a knowledge rentier class), both of which have a significant impact on global knowledge sharing.


Finally, Conference Chairperson and CSTS Executive Director Geoffrey Bowker’s article, enumerates the three main issues (control of knowledge, privacy, and patterns of ownership)  that emerged from the discussions at the conference and frame the question:  global knowledge sharing:  digital divide or digital commons?


For further information on the conference, including audio, transcriptions, and PowerPoint slides of the presentations, please see the CSTS Web site (, where you also will find the digital version of STS NEXUS.

About the Author

Eric Carlson

Eric D. Carlson is a Senior Fellow at the Santa Clara University Center for Science, Technology, and Society.   During the past 30 years, Carlson worked in research, product development, and executive management in Silicon Valley for IBM, Convergent Technologies, Unisys, the ASK Group, and Silicon Graphics, retiring in 2004 as President and CEO of Telcontar, Inc.  He also served 10 years on the Los Gatos Town Council, including 2 terms as mayor.  Carlson has a Ph.D. in computer science and a master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  His bachelor’s degree in economics is from Carleton College, Minnesota. 

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