Classroom Activities

  1. Gates’ speech provoked a series of hostile questions from audience members. Why do you think that the speech fostered such hostility? What was the rhetorical situation and how might it help us understand the immediate response of the audience?
  2. What problems arise for Gates’ public reputation when this “technology evangelist” appears to shirk the benefits of technology for the poor?
  3. Consider Gates’ reputation now in terms of his more recent philanthropic contributions. Does he have a reputation for giving back to those considered less fortunate or does he still suffer from a past sense that he is exclusively concerned about issues of profit?
  4. Discuss ways in which the technological divide is still reflected in the United States. Consider and compare your own high school experiences or your experiences in elementary or middle school. Even within your own class, is there on-going evidence of the technological divide or are such divisions that often break down along issues of class appear to be part of the past within the United States?
  5. Discuss the popular advertisements that promote computer products on television and in magazines. Based on your discussion of such advertisements, who do you believe are the primary target audiences for such computers based on age, class, race, or gender? What might be the rationale for such marketing campaigns?
  6. As a class, discuss the ways in which computer companies contribute to the educational mission in your area schools through donations and grants. Also, discuss the ways in which such companies work to market their products to students by creating deals with schools to exclusively sell their products. What are some of the motives for such contributions and exclusive business deals? What are the problems and benefits of such exclusive deals?
  7. Develop a classroom debate over the following proposition:  Resolved: U.S. businesses have a responsibility to lessen the technological divide by donating computers and relevant technology to public classrooms in the United States.

Student Research

  1. Several other industry leaders spoke at the Digital Dividends conference, including Jeff Bezos, President of and Carly Fiorina, then Chairman of Hewlett-Packard. In particular, Carly Fiorina’s address was covered favorably by the press. What was her main point? Why was it received so positively by the media?
  2. Gates vehemently denies the market potential of the world’s poor, which he defines as living on less than $1 per day. Using one electronic database and one newspaper article, what percentage of the world’s population might be classified as poor? Can you find evidence of the “poor” using technology to their benefit?
  3. Several speakers at the Digital Dividends conference were actively engaged in bringing technology to underprivileged nations. Using the World Resources Institute website ( and the World Bank website (, discuss two successful initiatives that incorporate technology in third world countries. What claims do these websites make regarding the value of worldwide technological advancement?
  4. Use three different sources (e.g., one newspaper, one opinion magazine, and one web site) to learn more about the digital divide. Who is identified as being at a technological disadvantage? Why?
  5. In his speech, Gates mentions the World Bank and its efforts to assist the world’s poor. Using the World Bank website ( list three current World Bank efforts to assist the world’s poor. How do these efforts compare to Gates’ priorities?
  6. Using an electronic database, read through the press coverage following the Digital Dividends Conference. How did the press portray Gates? How did it respond to his position? Did this differ from the press coverage of other conference speakers?
  7. Gates suggests that the PC was invented at a time in the United States when we had already reached a broad standard of health. Research the status of healthcare and vaccinations during the 1970s and be prepared to discuss how vaccination levels have changed since then.

Citizenship Resources

  1. Go to the website for the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation ( and research the ways technology is being supported both in the United States and in third world countries by the foundation. What arguments do they put forth in support of technology as a democratizing force?
  2. Compare Gates’ view of helping the poor rise out of poverty with Dan Quayle’s advocacy of “personal responsibility” in his speech to the Commonwealth Club.
  3. Locate two articles that detail current U.S. government efforts to bridge the digital divide. In what ways do those articles reflect or dispute the priorities suggested by Gates at the Digital Dividends conference?
  4. World health equity continues to be a problem. Search the Internet for the latest G-8 meeting website. How does it discuss issues related to the digital divide? Be prepared to discuss ideas and proposals for alleviating digital disparities.
  5. Do you agree with Gates’ statement that defined the poor as those who live on less than $1 per day? Using the Internet, find sources that define the world’s poor. Are they the same as Gates’ definition?

Last updated May 3, 2016