||The Internet is
becoming an increasingly important tool in our information society. While
there are more Americans online now than ever before, certain groups are
still less likely to have online access or own computers. There exist gaps
in technological access among people of different educational, income, racial,
and geographic backgrounds. This section focuses on equity of access and
Evidence indicates that minorities and the poor are less likely to own computers
and have Internet access than are whites and more affluent people (Attawell,
252). Government and corporate groups have mobilized to address the issue
of inequity of access by providing computer equipment to schools and libraries.
However, wiring schools and libraries is not enough. People need information
literacy, the ability to interpret the reliability and accuracy of information,
and technological literacy, the ability to use hardware and software (Carven,
42). These literacy skills are necessary in order to utilize information
technology effectively. The need for relevant content must also be addressed.
Individuals and communities require relevant information and the ability
to create their own information online (Carven, 39). Investments should
be made in online content that meets the needs of minority groups who may
feel that the Internet is not for them (Young, 51).
Equity of access can be improved by addressing literacy issues, content
problems, along with current efforts to increase Internet access (Carven,
39). Libraries serve a vital role as Internet access points for people who
are otherwise unconnected and as a place to gain the skills needed to use
information technology effectively. Libraries not only provide access and
training, but also content for underrepresented groups. It is common for
libraries to develop and provide unique resources for their individual community
needs. Libraries can help to alleviate gaps in technological access among
different races and ethnicities.
This is the online accompaniment to the two-part PBS series on the digital
divide. This website contains information on many aspects of the digital
divide including education, gender, race, and employment. Click on the
link titled "Race" to read interviews and bios of influential
writers in the field, look at statistics, and explore the excellent collection
Surveys, Statistics, and Reports
U. S. Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information
Administration (NTIA) and the Economics and Statistics Administration
have the report A Nation Online: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use
of the Internet. This report describes computer and Internet use among
different groups of Americans. To access other similar NTIA statistical
reports click on the link "Previous Statistical Reports on Computer
and Internet Use in the U.S." located at the bottom of the page.
Other reports include Falling Through the Net: Toward Digital Inclusion,
a series of reports that measure the extent of digital inclusion by looking
at households and individuals that have a computer and an Internet connection.
U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology (OET)
site contains information related to education and the digital divide.
Under "Headlines" look for the informative resource called Tool
Kit for Bridging the Digital Divide in Your Community. The site includes
links to relevant publications and many web resources.
Donna Hoffman and Thomas Novak have written extensively on the topic of
race and the digital divide, specifically relating to African-Americans.
This site contains papers written by the authors including the report
"Bridging the Digital Divide: The Impact of Race on Computer Access
and Internet Use".
Tomas Rivera Policy Institute conducts and disseminates research on issues
affecting Latino communities. One of the research areas is Information
and communication technology (ICT). The Institute conducts research and
publishes reports about issues concerning the nation's Latino communities,
including studies about computer ownership and Internet access.
The San Antonio Public Library maintains Enlaces en Espanol, a comprehensive
website in Spanish with links and resources relevant to the Latino community.
Topics on the website include news, culture, and religion. This is an
excellent example of the effort made in libraries to create ethnic relevant
content for the community of users.
Native Networking: Telecommunications and Information Technology in Indian
Country site contains reports, funding assistance information, current
projects, and many other community resources. A glossary of key terms
and sources for additional information are also included.
From the National Congress of American Indians, IndianTech is an information
agency for Indian Nations attempting to bridge the digital divide in their
communities. The digital divide in Indian Country addressed five issues
in order to achieve technological equality. These areas are access, economic
development and workforce training education, content, and sovereignty
Current News and Information
One of the many civil rights issues on the civilrights.org site is "Communications
and Internet Policy". This is a great resource for recent information
in the area of equity of access and race. The "Digital Divide"
section located under "Communications and Internet Policy" includes
comprehensive resources on the issue such as such as overview, history,
updates, resources, stories, and toolkit along with clippings, press releases,
NUA is an online source for information on Internet demographics and trends.
The site contains the latest information in many categories including
"Minority" issues. Users can subscribe to a free weekly newsletter
that contains all the week's news on Internet trends and statistics, and
Race in Digital Space is a conference presented by University of Southern
Massachusetts Institute of Technology that tackles issues related to race
and the digital divide. The dynamic conference includes panel discussions
with scholars, artists, writers, and musicians.
Attawell, P. (2001). First and Second Digital Divides. Sociology of
Education, 74 (3), 252-259.
Carven, A. (2000). More Than Just Access. EDUCause Review, 35 (6), 29-47.
Young, J. (2001). Does 'Digital Divide' Rhetoric Do More Harm Than Good?
The Chronicle of Higher Education, 48 (11), A51-A52.
Saundra, S. (2000). OITP Policy Brief Libraries and the Digital Divide.
Retrieved March 12, 2002, from ALA Office for Information Technology Policy