Reading through this excellent book I was reminded of an essay by George Orwell regarding the Atomic Bomb. Orwell examined the class implications of this new device. If a device was complicated to design, and thus only a few people were capable of developing it, then the working class would be exploited. But if a device was “easily procurable” (i.e., a musket), then it empowered the working class.
On a less martial note, David Barker, who grew up decidedly in the English working class, argues otherwise. Despite this being a digital age, where almost everyone has access to a computer, class exploitation remains, equal opportunity is still denied to the poor—in short, nothing has changed for the working class. To address this “cultural lag,” Barker, who was one of England’s “first Internet entrepreneurs” in the 1990s, aka early days of the tech revolution, has condensed what needs to be done in a catchy slogan–“#eSociety.” This new society would promote “equality of opportunity,” and “empowerment” for all classes to earn the fruits of the digital age.
Barker offers his own story to show the obstacles he faced as a working class youth who had to leave school early. But, having become entranced by computers since the age of 13, when, upon receiving a computer as a gift, he figured out the nuts and bolts of how it worked—what he calls learning the “code”—he wanted to enter the tech field. A guidance counselor inadvertently made him even more determined to break through the glass ceiling of this industry dominated by the upper class by trying to steer him toward the usual avenues for a working class youths: the army or “a trade.”
Given his later focus on social justice for ambitious working class members wanting to enter the tech field, Barker, in a neat bit of irony, took his first step into this field courtesy of Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government. Barker took advantage of the prime minister’s “Youth Training Scheme,” which gave 16-year-olds the opportunity to work in companies. Without giving too much away, Barker through hard work, and luck, reached his goal and became part of the “first wave” of Internet entrepreneurs.
Barker emerges from this book as an earnest, appealing and selfless man. Rather than lining his pocket, he left his profitable job to figure out how to bring government and industry into the tech age. If one were to classify the ideology behind this, it would be “The Third Way,” which loosely defined argues for a partnership between business and government to aid the underprivileged. Barker is not a class warrior, but instead is a pragmatist with a heart of gold. Without, as so often happens with social programs, stifling innovation, he has ensured that his approach will benefit everyone.
David Barker has written an effective book that makes an impressive argument for the need to apply a social justice dimension to the tech field.