Edtech 501: Digital Inequality Solutions

5. Subsidizing Internet Service Providers to provide low-cost Internet for all state residents.

Rising costs of high speed Internet create an easy choice to the “have nots” in the debate over the Digital Divide. When it comes between paying the water bill or paying the Internet provider, the water bill will win every time. By subsidizing the Internet Service Providers, residents will be able to receive discounted Internet that will increase technological knowledge and skills needed in the global market.

There are some companies that already have these programs in place. Comcast for instance have created “Internet Essentials”, an assistance program that helps families where at least one child is receiving a free lunch through the National School Lunch Program. They would pay 9.95 a month for Broadband and would receive a voucher to purchase an inexpensive netbook (retail value $130.00).

Besides just giving a needy family access to the internet, as well as the equipment to connect, Comcast also offers trouble-shooting, lessons and software to help facilitate learning about all of the tools available online and anti-virus protection at no additional cost. This is indeed a valuable asset because they not only recognize that the “Digital Divide” is created by lack of equipment and access, but also a lack of knowledge of how to use it and make meaningful connections to our everyday lives.

The one down side is that the program is not available to citizens without children on the free lunch program. But it is a step in the direction of bridging the gap.

Resources:

Internet Essentials. “Bringing the Internet to your home is easy and affordable.” Comcast: 2011 <www.internetessentials.com/how/index.html>

 

6. Provide Information Literacy Courses to Enhance Computer Skills and Enable Knowledgeable Use of Digital Technologies.

It is important to realize that the “Digital Divide” is not simply a divide of who has Internet and who doesn’t. It is a more complicated issue about what is done with that technology and in what context. Providing communities with Technological Literacy Courses would increase the knowledge base of many people who might fear the Internet or think they are incapable of learning the skills required to operate or navigate it.

In a new survey released by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, those polled gave specific responses for why they don’t access the Net. 47.2% of 2009 respondents still said “don’t need/not interested” (arstechnica.com).  It is imperative that these people not only be educated on how to use the tools and equipment but also how it can be connected to their everyday lives.

Providing information literacy classes would be beneficial to the general public, but there is still the unanswered question as to how they will use the information if technology is not readily available in their home. It is important to note that information literacy courses, in conjunction with another option which provides computers with extended time may show more increase in information literacy and usage more so than just choosing one option.

Resources:

Lassar, Matthew. “Study shows why over 30 percent of USA never uses ‘Net.” Ars Technica. September 2010: 19 September 2011 <http://arstechnica.com/tech.policy/news/2010/02/almost-a-third-of-americans-still-dont-use-the-net.ars&gt;

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