Another dot in the blogosphere?

The “powerful” minority

Posted on: September 5, 2016

Recently I met with a group of leaders and educators who consulted me on ICT-mediated change management. As I give, I also get in return, and I was reminded of a mindset that rises to the surface on occasion.

One participant mentioned that she was hesitant to take advantage of mobile technology because not every learner has it. I replied that:

  • Not everyone needs to own one because they can share what they have.
  • Perception is not reality: The low SES groups here have relatively high ownership of phones.*
  • We need to do what is best for learners, not just what we are comfortable with.

*This point deserves some data-based evidence. I draw from three SingStat reports:

  • Over 2007/2008, the proportion of mobile lines (95%) overtook the number of land lines (88%) (Source, p.7.)
  • The mobile phone penetration at home is 97% as of 2013. (Source, p.24.)
  • Among the low SES groups, “some 86% of households living in HDB 1- and 2-room flats owned a mobile line in 2012/13, up from 65% in 2007/08 and 56 per cent in 2002/03”. Such households spend an average of $33.80** per month on mobile line(s). (Source, p. 8 & 164.)

**For the record and comparison, my individual mobile phone line with 3GB of monthly data is $25 per month (including taxes).

In this context, the “powerful” minority are not the rich or those that have political influence. They are the disenfranchised like the low SES groups.

It is wonderful if we craft policies and shape practice that do not isolate or stigmatise the already marginalised. However, it is terrible if we hold everyone back because of bad data, poor perception, or a fear of change.

Holding everyone back because of access to technology issues maintains the status quo or results in efforts that do not result in meaningful change. This is punishing the majority for the transgressions of the minority. The minority in this case is not the stakeholders, but the decision-makers in the room.

It is terrifying to see large organisations not learn from the mistakes of others. It is disappointing if a powerful but fearful minority influences a majority that stands on shifting sand. It is irresponsible when you realise that the learners who are impacted by policies have little or no say.

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