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Bridging and Understanding the Technology Gap

Over the last two years, it has been acknowledged that we have a technology gap between the generations of workers in the government space. We have skilled and experienced professionals who have been trained not to be on the internet or any type of social media, and those who are very skilled and adept at Web 2.0 and social media but don’t have the experience of being part of the government community for most of their professional career. The digital immigrants and digital natives.

At the same time we have seen clashes between the two cultures on how to navigate with each other within an office, project or agency. I have heard consternation on both sides as co – workers share “they just don’t get it”.

We currently have the challenge that there is no web 2.0 or social media training or mentoring program to guide each native and immigrant to the other side of the island to make the overall community a better place. I even suggested awhile back that we have Adopt a Digital Immigrant program which fell flat.

We sometimes have to go outside the area to regain perspective. I am currently in a suburb of Chicago where I can see the Sears Tower from my hotel room and am less than 20 minutes from O’Hare but there are stark differences in the availability and ability to navigate web 2.0 and this reminds me how we inside the beltway tend to take our technology abundance for granted.

Wi-fi is not available at every Starbucks here, understanding social platforms is foreign and people still take their pictures to Walgreens to get developed. Unemployment is high, times are tough and there are more important things like paying bills than wondering about the most recent tweet. We seem to take for granted that everyone is attached to some form of social media to have a conversation rather than just dropping by and having a face to face conversation where belly laughs are shared in person and the warmth on someone’s face is enough to get your through the day.

My aunt who I am here visiting asked for help on her computer. We spent about 20 minutes cleaning out her email, updating her virus protection and then running through what a disk cleanup and defrag were. She was so appreciative and the joy on her face to be able to look at her grandchildren’s pictures so much faster made the whole trip worthwhile.

I experience the same thing when I try to explain that I help military personnel and other cleared job seekers throughout the country and I have to ensure that we are using web formats that are dial up friendly. Yes much of the country is still on dial up and broadband is a long way coming for many folks.

But back to our cultural challenges inside the beltway – if you see a co-worker who can’t just get it on web 2.0, please consider taking a few moments to help them better understand the technology and how to use it. You may open a channel of conversation to help you better understand the government community and make the better place for everyone on the island.

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Hey Kathleen – that was a great gesture to help your aunt with her tech issues…wondering if there are non-profit volunteer programs that facilitate that same kind of assistance…would be a great resource for seniors…but also for anyone who felt like a “digital immigrant!”

Andrea Schneider

really good post. your reminder of the digital divide is an important reminder of just how many people will be left out of the open gov movement, just because they do not view the computer as essential to communication with other people.
I am very interested in seeing what actual action occurs because of online abilities in communities around the country. thanks for the post.