“Downtown Raleigh’s Chavis Heights neighborhood boasts a perk that would be a plum in any community, but all the more so in public housing: universal broadband Internet access for all residents.
Unlimited e-mailing and Internet surfing are privileges few here could afford until last fall, when this low-income subsidized housing community was turned into a free WiFi hotspot.”
This effort to link low-income citizens to the Internet is not new. In fact, Chavis Heights is but the latest community in a decade-long project called One Economy, a global non-profit that “leverages the power of technology and connects underserved communities around the world to vital information that will improve their lives.”
But there’s just one problem.
Internet access alone is not enough. The article continues: “…even zero-cost Internet is not enough to turn all low-income residents into cyber-citizens. The uptake rate among residents isn’t measured, but it’s estimated to be less than half the households.”
These same folks can’t afford computers on a $12,000 a year income.
So free Internet might be one answer to the question. But it’s not enough and before we travel too much further down this #OpenGov or #Gov20 road, we ought to give ample time and energy to answering my initial question:
How do we bridge the digital divide – that ignominious gap between people who enjoy ready access to web-based and mobile technology and those who lack such resources?
Otherwise, we will perpetuate a country where wealthy, well-educated citizens make decisions on behalf of low-income folks who lack access to the process.
For me, that flies in the face of the basic intentions of a government that is more transparent, participatory and collaborative.