Voices From the Lab: Digital Divide – How Do YOU Define It?

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What exactly is the Digital Divide? According to the World English Dictionary (www.dictionary.com) it is a noun and it is “the gap between those people who have Internet access and those who do not.”

Seems like a simple definition for something so complex it requires years and years of study and research from esteemed places like PEW Internet Project, a part of the PEW Research Center (http://pewresearch.org/), the go-to folks for all things digital, socio-economic, and American-life related.   This great resource center sends out statistics, charts and measurable facts about how we live our American lives.

pie chartBut, what do digital divide pie charts, line graphs and Internet bar graphaccessPowerPoint presentations mean to an Austin Free-Net client?  Not a whole lot.  An AFN client doesn’t need to be told in multi-hued pie pieces that he or she is without Internet access in their home.  A bar graph won’t help an underemployed person obtain additional  work.  Our clients already know they are in need of the services we provide for free.  To the staff of AFN the Digital Divide is

  • Teaching computer basics such as keyboarding to
    someone who has never touched a keyboard
  • Helping someone register for a free email account and watching them send their first email
  • Watching clients in the “open lab” as they practice for their GED test
  • Seeing the excitement on someone’s face when they receive a call-back from a job application they submitted online
  • Helping a client use the computer to find affordable housing information
  • Helping a visually impaired person use a computer, because we have the  equipment they need
  • Watching someone improving their reading using Reading Companion from IBM
  • Showing someone how to save their new resume on a donated flash drive

The digital divide is more than a bunch of numbers and percentage points – it’s the people in our community.  We value the
statistical information we obtain from resources such as Pew and Broadband USA (http://www2.ntia.doc.gov/) but it’s our clients that truly define why we are here.

AFN DeWitty

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