Development workers have high hopes that the internet could introduce a wealth of information to the developing world. They’re not entirely wrong. The internet provides a volume of information at a cost that was, until recently, unthinkable. But access does not guarantee effective use, and if there are two platitudes in development work that stay unquestionably true they’re that material resources are never enough, and there are no simple solutions.
Don’t get me wrong. I am deeply invested in increasing access to knowledge and information. In one of my first trips to El Salvador, an English teacher showed me the only book he had to use in preparation for the many classes he teaches. It was a second-hand book and out of date. In contrast, I’ve been able to consult over 30 books in my preparation to teach a single class in World Literature. The knowledge gap is unjust and deeply troubling, and I want to see it changed. I’m even getting a degree in Information and Library Science, a field that has a purpose of making information easily accessible.
But what I’ve learned is that increased access to information has to be coupled with an education that helps people effectively use that information. That’s been our approach. Recently, we have given our interns electronic tablets, and on this last trip we loaded them with more e-books and other educational resources along with explaining how to use them. But we’ve also been teaching them to think critically, and there is no tool better for this purpose than God’s Word.
I taught a few classes on the Inductive Bible Study Method to our interns, and I was amazed at how they interacted in the class. The interns’ ability to read and understand has vastly improved, and it is exactly these skills that will help them become effective users of information.
The work continues. We have interns who want to be teachers, and during our trip this past weekend, I was excited to get them some books on teaching. But I’m most excited that a fellow team member and I will be reading the books along with them, helping them deepen their understanding and critically think about the material through dialogue. The human resource will always be essential in development work. This process of critically thinking about the information we receive and how to use it responsibly will be ongoing, as education always is. There really are no simple solutions, and just having material or even informational resources is not enough to produce meaningful and lasting change.