I’m fascinated by the way computers and the Internet can empower people who might not otherwise have opportunities because of disability, poverty, or distance.
The NY Times has an interesting article on a quadriplegic man from Centerville, Utah, who works from home as a call center operator for Office Depot. Technology makes this and other jobs possible.
MIT is leading a project called One Laptop per Child that is producing, in partnership with several tech companies, a laptop that costs just $100. This price point will hopefully make it so accessible that countries like Brazil and Thailand can buy one for every child. This would give them access to a wealth of information and the opportunity to communicate with the entire world.
Sites like Elance bring outsourcing to the masses. Anyone can post a project there and gets cheap bids from programmers, designers, or writers from all around the world. It’s not right for every situation, but you might, for example, get a great deal on a programmer in India who will welcome the work for an amount we’d consider cheap. I recently met an entrepreneur that used Elance to get 200 quality articles of 500 words each for $5/article. The articles were written by a college-graduated, stay-at-home mom in the midwest who bid on the project. What a great deal.
I’ve mentioned this before, but Amazon’s Mechanical Turk pays out small amounts for completing tasks that computers can’t do. It doesn’t amount to very much per hour, but on the Internet these tasks can be done by those whose time is worth it to them. That might be a 14 year-old in Utah or a mother in India, in any case a paying job for someone who wants it.
I think the Internet will continue to have an equalizing influence on the world economy.