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iPhone junkies fuel 'techsclusivity'

  • 06 August 2008

When the much-hyped iPhone 3G was released last month, people across the world queued for hours to buy the latest incarnation of Apple's uber-cool and feature-packed mobile phone. A few hundred punters braved the winter chill at midnight in Sydney for the privilege of being the first iPhone owners in the country.

The iPhone is a sexy and clever device. Its large, luminous touch screen can zoom in and out on web pages and zip through song lists and phone contacts, while a virtual keyboard allows you to write text messages and emails. Sourcing and communicating information has never been easier.

But new technology comes with baggage. It's not only the high cost that is problematic, although the iPhone is certainly expensive. One of Telstra's cheaper options is the 8GB $40 per month package for two years which includes a $279 upfront fee. Additionally, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned consumers to be wary of the additional costs involved once download limits have been exceeded.

The most interesting question regarding the popularity of the iPhone is, who is more likely to benefit from this technology, and who is not? Our obsession with slick and funky gadgets makes it hard to see the role technology plays in a wider social context.

Not everyone has access or the ability to use new technology. This is a major challenge for recently arrived people such as Sudanese or Burmese, for example, who have lived long in refugee camps. This in turn has implications for their health and wellbeing.

The use and application of information communication technology has emerged as a major issue in developing effective strategies for health promotion to a multicultural Australian audience. In a world where information is increasingly delivered online, we need to address the social, cultural and economic barriers relating to technology in order to effectively communicate with a rich and diverse range of Australian communities.

Recent research undertaken by the National Centre for Vocational Education has shown there is an increasing tendency to rely on the use of high tech information communication technology despite the well acknowledged 'digital divide' between and within groups.

Older members of some communities, for example, are particularly disadvantaged in terms of information technology literacy. Also, as researchers at Victoria University have discovered, internet communication that is primarily textual can be difficult for communities with largely oral rather than written language traditions.