ShareVision Blog

Conversations on technology for community service providers

The Digital Divide

digitaldivide

R.I.P. old friend, you were dearly loved by all who knew you. Your time with us was short. We will never forget you and we shall reminisce fondly about how good we had it when you were in our lives. Yes, it seems unlimited Internet is now dead. Telus made the announcement in Canada last week that we would all soon be paying for our data usage. Which means we would retain our status in North America, as paying the highest Internet and cellular phones fees anywhere on the planet.  

According to annual report by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute.

Americans pay far more and get far less when it comes to the Internet than many other people around the world. Internet users in Seoul continue to get the speediest connections at the lowest prices anywhere in the world, with speeds of one gigabit per second costing just $30 a month. By contrast, the best speeds that consumers in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., or New York can get are half as fast and cost $300 a month.” 

When I heard that we are about to pay even more for a service we have all come to depend on for daily functioning, I couldn’t help but think of technology accessibility for the persons we serve. Soon they may be left further behind and possibly unable to access even the most basic of services.

Is the Internet destined to soon just be for the elite? Will it be priced completely out of the range of our clients? When we offer more and more services exclusively online only, including social services, who are we excluding from accessing those services? Yes times change and there are no longer blacksmith forges or water-bed shops on our streets, and with the Internet already much less available in rural areas across North America, how can we ensure, as service providers, that the people we support can keep up? Even in remote areas.

http://www.hcn.org/issues/46.2/rural-americans-have-inferior-internet-access

The “digital divide”, as defined by Aleph Molinari is:

  • lack of access due to affordability
  • lack of knowledge on HOW to use technology
  • lack of understanding of the benefits of technology

Initiating programs to ensure Internet broadband and even mobile phone access for those on low incomes and those in rural areas is a step forward and is being initiated by both forward thinking governments and corporations. (See links below to some of the many services and programs available) How can we make it easy to stay in contact and connect to supports when not everyone can follow you on twitter? It will take creative partnering according to this excellent article by David Hulegaard, and the following example.

http://www.academia.edu/6642754/The_Digital_Divide_Causes_and_Solutions

“The partnership between the Aravind Eye Clinics in India and UC Berkeley. By utilizing new software, building a Wi-Fi wireless network available for free to poor rural communities and installing “communication stations” that include digital cameras and videoconferencing, the Aravind Eye clinics are able to reach thousands of customers located in poor rural communities, providing them with instant diagnostics, appointments etc. These technologies have allowed for expanded patient services of an additional 1500 clients per month and still provide cataract surgeries for about $10 US an eye, (Greensfelder, 2006)”

We clearly need to keep thinking outside of the box. Libraries and computer give-away programs will not be enough to keep everyone informed and able to access our services, especially in the most expensive place on earth to try and do so.

 

Resource list for accessible services

Connect2Compete is a collaboration of government, corporate and community leaders who are helping Americans access technology through free digital literacy training, discounted high speed Internet and low-cost computers.

EveryoneOn is a national nonprofit working to eliminate the digital divide by making high-speed, low-cost Internet service and computers, and free digital literacy courses accessible to all unconnected Americans

Rogers Canada has internet program for those in affordable housing

Free phones for those on other low income services

Topics: Digital Divide