Civic Equanimity and the Digital Divide
Max Eternity - Earlier this year I wrote an article entitled "Electronic Apartheid" that spoke to the digital disenfranchisement that many Blacks face--based on statistics which show that Whites generally have much greater access to computers and the Internet, how that is linked to social justice and the arts. In the similar vein, an article written by Library Director, Susan Nemitz, of Ramsey County, Minnesota, appeared today, talking specifically about how the digital divide is playing out in public libraries. Nemitz's article, published at twincities.com, reads below:
"The most cost-effective first step to accelerate broadband deployment is to create universal access to broadband through the nations' public library systems. The consequences of not acting will be huge disparities in academic achievement, worker productivity, and civic and economic participation."
On the front lines of the digital divide
by Susan Nemitz
Every day, librarians are called upon to support job-seekers who have no computer access, lack rudimentary computing skills, have little knowledge of how to conduct an online job search, and have had no experience submitting an online application. Most workforce programs are available from 8 am to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Heavy demand has forced many public libraries to ration computer time to one hour per day per patron. And still they come.
Meantime, the surge in the number of seniors who depend on public-library computers represents a fascinating trend. They, along with our low income patrons, are least likely to have a home computer. As a group, seniors are the primary participants in our basic computing classes (Introduction to the Mouse, Internet Basics, and Introduction to E-mail). Last year the Ramsey County Library introduced computing to more than 1,000 learners but was not able to fully meet the demand for classes. As more governmental forms are available exclusivelyonline, seniors often find processes like the Medicare Part D online enrollment to be simply baffling. Our patrons seek access to online content like high quality medical information web sites. They want to learn how to e-mail their grandkids in Boston or look at the photos on their daughter's Facebook page. They want to fully participate in a 21st-century world of information. Read more.