Do the poor “deserve” e-readers? That’s the question a photo in a newspaper story raised recently. In a New Orleans Times-Picayune story discussing concerns over dust from a building demolition in New Orleans affecting people who live in a nearby public housing project, a photo showed an 8-year-old boy using an iPad. It was just a photo meant to illustrate the people who lived in the affected project, but it raised some questions and attracted complaints from readers: what was a child in public housing doing with a $500 tablet?
Jarvis DeBerry, who wrote a follow-up article on the controversy, notes that it’s fairly common for people to have differing opinions on exactly what possessions the poor should be “allowed” to have. But for his part, he didn’t see the problem in this case:
The sight of a kid in public housing with an iPad doesn’t offend me. Actually it gives me hope. So many poor people have no access to the digital world. They fall behind in school because of it. They miss the opportunity to apply for certain jobs. Yes an iPad is an expensive gadget, but we can’t deny its usefulness. As computers go, an iPad comes cheaper than most laptops and desktops.
The mindset does make me wonder, though: what about when we’re able to make cheap tablets and e-readers and computers and get them to poor people to try to give them access to what they’re missing from the digital divide? Will the sight of a poor person with an e-reader raise hackles from people who think they don’t “deserve” something that “expensive”?