Availability of Information
by James L. Morrison

[Note: This is a re-formatted manuscript that was originally published in On the Horizon, 1992, 1(1), 10-11. It is posted here with permission from Jossey Bass Publishers.]

While many are excited by the possibilities for the proliferation of information made possible by new technology coming from the communications industry, tough questions remain unanswered. Perhaps the most pressing is "Who will pay for it?" The vision of a bold future, where "we'll all have a computer on our desk, and a phone in our shoe" (a tip of the hat to Maxwell Smart, the bumbling super-spy of the TV show "Get Smart"), or a possible future in which computer terminals and televisions that will become "telecomputers" that can process video images and send them around the world on fiber-optic cable with threads as thin as human hair, may be near at hand. "But," says FCC Commissioner Sherrie P. Marshall, "who will pay for it? How will the infirm and the poor pay for it?" The possible proliferation of information on technologically advanced communications systems raises questions that spill over into complex public policy issues. If funding is not available to subsidize public access to this bold future, one may need to observe, as did Commissioner Ervin S. Duggan, that the "democratization of the Fax machine may not be desirable or necessary." Duggan went further to observe that with the increased usage of cable television service and pay-per-view programming, reflecting trends that may indicate how public accessibility for this new technology will be financed, the potential of television as a teacher and as a source of information is liberating only to those whose access is possible because they can afford to pay by the minute. [Skrzycki, C. (1991, May 2). FCC fast-forwards agenda, probes technology of future. The Washington Post, pp. B10, B12.]


New technologies involving telecommunications, satellite communications, interactive TV and videodisks provide opportunities for transforming the design and implementation of instruction that can be carried far beyond the campus. The problem is one of resources. First, until the technologies are widely used, their costs will remain high. Early adopters will pay through the nose for their use. Second, what about human resources? Are professors on your campus prepared to use these new technologies in designing their instruction? Do you have a center for professional development capable of assisting them to use the new technologies? Third, what about students? Although the costs of computers have come down dramatically, they remain beyond the range of many students. Does your financial aid office consider the cost of a personal computer when deriving financial aid packages?

All material within the HORIZON site, unless otherwise noted, may be distributed freely for educational purposes. If you do redistribute any of this material, it must retain this copyright notice and you must use appropriate citation including the URL. Also, we would appreciate your sending James L. Morrison a note as to how you are using it. HTML and design by Noel Fiser, ©2006. Page last modified: 7/1/2003 8:33:34 PM. 15926 visitors since February 2000.