Q&A with Mashable’s Pete Cashmore at Rio+Social

“Increasingly we use social media as a filter, but the biggest thing we have is editorial judgment.”

– Pete Cashmore, founder and CEO of Mashable, the online news source on technology, social media and digital culture. 

Why is greater access to digital technology and information so important for today’s societies?

It fundamentally changes things, to have access to information– that really accelerates progress. If you have a question and you can just Google it to find a solution, people become very able to solve their own problems. It’s an amazing thing that a lot of the favelas [in Rio] already have connectivity, it’s amazing to think how much progress we’ll see in these areas.

It’s shocking that the digital divide in the US has sustained for so long. It’s important not just to give people the tools, but it’s important to have education about it. A recent article shows the majority of people still use these tools more for entertainment than education– but especially among lower-income people. That says a lot about our collective desire, whether we value expanding our minds.

There’s a movement starting among governments to make government data open and available, what does this mean for access?

Open data is incredibly important because it’s public data, the public deserves to have it, and it inspires creativity and innovation as people do things with the data. New York City has done a great job with this, providing data for developers to build maps or whatnot.

So how important do you think it is for younger people to learn how to build these tools and apps online?

It’s less important to know how a car is built than how to drive it. People need to understand how to use things, and be able to educate themselves on how to use these tools, more so than how things are built. Increasingly we use social media as a filter, but the biggest thing we have is editorial judgment. You know a great story when you see it, because you’ve seen it a million times and you know it’s a hot topic. We still have editors for a reason.

Mashable is a sponsor of Rio+Social and hosts an annual Social Good Summit in New York City. You can follow Pete at @mashable.

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