ellohay! West Michigan

Article: Was EarthLink’s failed citywide Wi-Fi a blessing in disguise?

Posted in benchmarks, potential problems, wifi by forgr on September 7, 2008

A recent article from Tirana Magazine on Philadelphia’s wi-fi network, the Wireless Philadelphia organization and doing a really solid job on…

Defining the digital divide

There’s been a lot of chatter over the years about the digital divide or the idea that there is a great chasm between people who have access to technology such as computers and the Internet, and those who do not. While some 68 percent of the U.S. population has access to the Internet via broadband or dial-up connections, there are still millions of people across the country who do not have any access at all.

Overwhelmingly, these unconnected individuals tend to be minorities and people with low education levels. A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that only 57 percent of African Americans and 37 percent of Hispanics have Internet access. And only 29 percent of people who have not graduated from high school are connected to the Internet.

It’s difficult to gauge what the impact of this exclusion means. In the past, Internet access was viewed as an unnecessary luxury, a tool used to send e-mail and casually surf Web sites. But increasingly, the Internet has become an important tool for getting information about and access to just about everything from health care to social services. It’s used as a tool to engage parents in their children’s education. And as newspapers shed their classified listings, it’s become an important tool for looking for jobs.

“Digital inclusion has traditionally been seen as a charity initiative,” The Knight Foundation’s Perry said. “But that is rapidly changing. Increasingly, cities of all types–urban, suburban, and rural–are linking universal digital access to economic development imperatives.”

From the beginning, Wireless Philadelphia’s goal has been to provide broadband service to families who have never owned a computer and have little or no online experience. The group believes that getting these families online will increase their access to educational, employment, and life opportunities.

But it will also have big benefits for the city, such as reducing crime and unemployment, improving public health and social service efficiency, and increasing educational excellence.

“It’s nearly impossible to apply for an entry-level job today without having basic digital skills and Internet access,” Greg Goldman, CEO of Wireless Philadelphia said. “And there have been studies that show patients who access information online about HIV AIDS, hypertension, or diabetes have better health outcomes.”

We’ll find out what happens next quite soon…

TechConnect (San Francisco)

Posted in benchmarks, education by forgr on February 29, 2008

The TechConnect Digital Inclusion initiative is a set of programs to help all San Franciscans access technology to improve their lives.

TechConnect’s Digital Inclusion programs provide ways for San Franciscans to more easily obtain a computer for their home, as well as the technology training and support needed to use it effectively. TechConnect also seeks to increase the availability of culturally relevant Internet content and applications.

From the TechConnect website:

Implementation Approach
The principles underlying the implementation of the San Francisco Digital Inclusion Program are to:

·      Engage the community in a community driven planning and implementation process.

·      Leverage existing community, governmental and business resources whenever possible.
Include measurable outcomes and indicators of success.

In less than a decade, the Internet has radically changed how people communicate, seek employment, and access services, education and entertainment. Students use the Internet for research and to create new works of all types. Businesses use the Internet to extend their service offerings, improve customer service and improve their bottom lines.  Governments at all levels find new ways to harness the Internet to improve the delivery of public services.  Nonprofits and community based organizations are using the Internet to better reach out to their constituencies and fulfill their social missions.

Enhanced Digital Literacy Programs
·      Relevant, Multi-language Internet Content and Online Services such as the promotion of multi-lingual web portals, promotion of community based web sites, content development training programs, and new collaborations across San Francisco’s communities.

Possible Strategies:
·      Implement communications programs to increase awareness of programs that collect, refurbish, distribute and sell used computers to underserved communities.

·      Develop low or no-interest computer purchase program that enables qualifying low-income residents to purchase new PCs (desktops and laptop computers) and supporting equipment (printers, Customer Premise Equipment) for a low monthly cost ($25-$60) over a 1-3 year loan term and required computer training.  The City will partner with technology vendors and financial institutions to implement this program.  The City will seek to partner with the Unified School District and local nonprofits to distribute the computers and provide training.

·      Organize technology fairs in the City’s most underserved neighborhoods where participants will be able to sign up for the computer purchase programs, vendors can provide information about purchasing computers, networking equipment and other internet devices; and refurbished computer providers will be able to collect donated equipment, provide information about or possibly even sell refurbished computers onsite.

·      Provide education and information about buying a computer and available resources for purchasing low-cost hardware on the digital inclusion program website and provide written materials at community events and technology support centers.

·      Facilitate partnerships between device and application providers (e.g.: Nokia, Skype) with nonprofits and schools to introduce new devices and applications for underserved communities.