Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age

“The time has come for new thinking and aggressive action to ensure the
information opportunities of America’s people, the information health
of its communities, and the information vitality of our democracy.
Information technology is changing our lives in ways that we cannot
easily foresee.”

That’s a quote from Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age , a report that the Knight Foundation published this month. Trust a foundation dedicated to journalism in the digital age to have online interactivity. Their poll, Are You a Healthy Information Community? is a great way to frame access to information in your own community, whether local, state, or federal.

As they write in their report, “No one has developed a system for scientifically measuring the quality of a local community’s information environment,” but their 8 features of a healthy information community are very Gov 2.0 with a noticeable dose of Open Gov.

In light of Andrew’s post on Libraries as Linchpins for #Gov20 and #OpenGov, I thought Knight’s section on what defines information success and failure to be particularly interesting. Even though we lack valid tools to measure a community’s information health, the report is right when they say that “Engagement is the critical point where community and individual
information needs intersect. Communities need policies, processes, and institutions that promote information flow and support people’s constructive engagement with information and with each other.”

The graduate program in Public Admin at my local state university has
had to work hard to convince incoming students that IT matters. When it comes to electives, IT classes aren’t so hot. Another
state university has gone from four e-government classes down to one for their MPA program. That doesn’t tell the whole story, but I find those anecdotal examples worrisome. And the Knight report confirms why those examples should be worrisome.

One more quote (nothing like good Foundation report-writing for quotes): “How we react, individually and collectively, to the information
challenges and opportunities now presented to us will affect the
quality of our lives and the very nature of our communities.”

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