Information Deserts

While listening to Bobbi speak today at ILEAD U about the importance of access in transliteracy, it got me to thinking about information deserts.  I am working on an article related to information deserts and thought I would share a few thoughts here:

How do we, LIS professionals, describe a locale in which access to unbiased information is difficult to obtain?   Are there areas in this country in which people cannot obtain information because of the lack of access to the Internet, community computer centers or a public libraries?  Are some people cut off from access to the sum of human knowledge, and all the benefits derived from such access?

An information desert exists where access to unbiased information is limited either through a digital divide or lack of access to public libraries.   In urban areas, like Chicago or New York, an information desert exists where computer-based Internet penetration falls below 60% and distance to a public library or public computer center exceeds .5 miles.  I come from the school of thought that does not think mobile Internet is a substitute for computer-based Internet or public libraries.

Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010

Cathy Michael, who writes the Communications & Legal Studies blog, posts a link to the text of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. She quotes Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski on the importance of the act:

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act is the most significant disability law in two decades.  The law’s provisions were endorsed in the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.  They will bring communication laws into the 21st Century, providing people with disabilities access to new broadband technologies and promoting new opportunities for innovation.

More pertinent quotes from Chairman Genachowski can be found at the Communications & Legal Studies blog and the full text of the act can be found here.

Why Technology Matters for Children, The Digital Divide

Community Technology Programs Deliver Opportunities to Youth” is an 8:46 minute video in which young people help tell the story of why access to quality technology and training matters to their future. The video covers health improvement, educational achievement, workforce training and civic engagement of young people through the use of information and communications technology.

Produced by the youth of the Bresee Foundation together with The Children’s Partnership ©2007.

You Can’t Just say, ‘Here’s a Computer.’ You Can’t Just Say, ‘Here’s Cheap Internet,’You’ve Got to Teach a Man to Fish.

Sunset FishingEvery time I talk about transliteracy I mention this problem.

Providing access to highspeed broadband is only the first step.You have to think about the cost of hardware, the learning curve to use the hardware effectively.  After that is learning how to navigate the internet.  It’s not intuitive, there is no instruction manual and there is no formal training.

It is great that there is a national broadband plan but it does next to nothing to address the issues related the access and training once high speed is availabe.

So I love this quote from Waz: Top gadgets encourage broadband adoption

“You can’t just say, ‘Here’s a computer.’ You can’t just say, ‘Here’s cheap Internet,’” he said. “You’ve got to teach a man to fish.”

Read More:

Community Technology Empowerment Project

In an effort to help bridge the digital divide for recent immigrants and low income communities in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, the Saint Paul Neighborhood Network has initiated the Community Technology Empowerment Project. According to their site:

The primary goal of this project is to help partner agencies utilize their existing community technology resources to better serve the needs of both youth and adults within their local neighborhoods, especially new immigrant, low-income residents and persons with disabilities.

A secondary goal is teach agency staff, volunteers and visitors how to use new technologies (including digital video and web) in order to help their constituents connect with existing civic, social service and community resources.

Additionally, all AmeriCorps CTEP members are required to mobilize volunteers at their host sites, participate in member development activities, and learn about civic engagement during their service year.

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