Zoom for Disadvantaged Zoomers: A Possible Expansion of Technology and Education Within the Developing World

The intersection of technology and education may not have been equitably galvanized, but the implementation of the platforms behind this intersection has been explored to the point where applications show promise in affecting change within the developing world; a high-quality education can help in fostering change in societies that suffer from marginalization. Through policymaking derived from the principle of egalitarian rational discourse — which is defined as a system of non-partisan individual and institutional political and social criticism of ineffectual structures for the good of all people — utilizing online education platforms at all levels, and responsible policymaking on the part of international bodies such as the UN and blocs such as Western Europe — both acting in concert with the developing world — the world stands to obtain long-term gains in its social and economic welfare. 

The genesis of a techno-educational shift within the developing world is contingent upon the stage being set via the fulfillment of foundational necessities. While the objective is to build self-sovereignty for the developing world, short-term solutions are improved with joint policy-making from the entire world. Notwithstanding the enormity of American imperialism and the aftermath of European colonialism, it is plausible for the developed world to cooperate with the developing world. Of course, this is rife with quandaries that must be accounted for; the postcolonial intellectual Edward Said, in Orientalism, observes that neocolonial influences are institutionalized within broader society if the discourses of imperial powers are exclusively used in efforts to assist the developing world. It is true that neocolonial influences can masquerade as a bona fide theoretical undertaking when said theories are not vetted for biases that marginalize the developing world, but this does not invalidate the formulation of thought leadership, or expert-wrought policymaking, that is extrapolated from Western intellectual roots. This is because of how it is possible for leading experts within the policy sector to generally craft apolitical theories and practices that rely upon a rational discourse that is favourable to the thoughts and expressions of a non-partisan mass of people. This is relevant due to how using critical thinking to upend structures of oppression and partiality within the developing world is valid from both a historical and a futuristic lens, even as it has been misused at times. Writing for The Economist, Slavoj Žižek declares, “We have to abandon the naïve faith in the spontaneous wisdom of everyday people as a guideline of our acts.” Throughout the interview, Žižek is swift to acknowledge that rational discourse has been hijacked. But this affirms rather than repudiates the role of rational discourse in adjudicating between competing policy proposals and differing ideologies, for the solution to the mishandling of expertise is to instill the critical mechanisms of open debate and questioning, not to disregard it outright. As this relates to policymaking within the developing world, rational discourse, understood as the process of deducing the merits of ideas through reasoned argument, stands irrespective of the atrocities of imperialism and colonialism for the aforementioned reasons. Thought leadership that is an effort of both the developing and the developed world is thus a sound solution. Consequently, aid from the developed world, provided it is devised with impartiality and a proportionate stake from the developing world, is a step towards the advancement of education and technology within the developing world.

Following the establishment that a developed-developing world front is a practical approach, the basic necessities that precede education and technology can be administered through models like the UN and the WHO. Acting in consultation with local institutions, these global institutions can develop the mid-term necessities for a techno-educational shift. For instance, in the case of Internet access, the infrastructure can be enshrined by blending conventional and contemporary forms of aid with economic structures that reward local entrepreneurship and sustainable business investments such as clean energy mechanisms. While it is a mistake to conclude that this and other resolutions ought to be cases of the financial wizardry of solely the developed world, it is also short-sighted to abdicate the developed world of its tasks of stewardship. Writing for The Guardian, Mark Lowcock argues that supranational institutions such as the IMF are key to cutting through the noise and ambiguity of international development in an equitable decorum. Contrary to the concerns about maintaining the livelihood of the financial war chests of the developed world, Lowcock declares that the IMF and other supranational institutions serve to fulfill both long-term development motifs and global emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic. It would be an unequivocal augmentation to instead use systems rooted in agency, but seeing as the developed world lacks an immediate impetus with teeth to pay their debts to the developing world, an improvement of some sort is better than nothing at all: the ends justify the means.  In conjunction with these changes, the structuring of initiatives such as Khan Academy and Zoom can function as the start of an accessible global education model that boosts outcomes within the developing world. For example, a company like EdX could offer its courses within a wider suite of languages and skill levels to individuals situated in the developing world, in return for funding from a relevant body. Even as the odds of scenarios like this remain low given the status quo, if a techno-educational shift is successfully assembled through the framing of rational discourse and international partnership, the possibilities of the developing world could skyrocket. 

The syncretism of local and international interests is fraught with risk, but this risk is beneficial comparative to the costs of failing to ameliorate the structural inequalities between the developing and developed worlds. With conundrums like the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change disproportionately affecting the developing world, the stakes are astronomically high, and defaulting to provinciality will be detrimental to the people that need good fortune the most. A techno-educational shift is therefore not just a case of armchair erudition: it is a social imperative with the potential to affect palpable progressions within and outside of the developing world.

Edited by Yesmine Abdelkefi and Arimbi Wahono.

Featured image by World Bank Photo Collection. Licensed by CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

By Alexander Mclaren

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