Sunday, September 16, 2007

Are U.S. Students Hungry Enough?

According to “Toward Equality of Access: The Role of Public Libraries in Addressing the Digital Divide”, a report sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which can be downloaded in pdf form at, the digital divide has lost ground in the spotlight. The report claims that the term was firmly established in the media science community in 1995 due to the report “Falling Through the Net” by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The divide identified the gap of internet and computer technology use as directly related to socioeconomic status and claimed the disadvantaged in the U.S. were going to lose even more ground due to their race, geographic location, economic and education level. The current concern of the report is that the spotlight of this dilemma has diminished. It was strong up through 1999 but has lost ground due to attention drawn to other world events and less media coverage. The report also blames the NTIA for reports in 2002 that claimed the technology was available to people through schools and public libraries but the gap remained because people were “choosing” not to use the technology (blame the victim!) Recent studies are showing that the numbers of Americans who use the internet and technology is increasing however the disadvantaged groups from the early days are still lagging. Programs to increase the public access to computer technology by both the government and private corporations are essential. The Bill and Linda Gates Foundation is the leader in this area with a focus on bringing computers to libraries in underserved communities. I also like the recommendations of mentor programs to promote ongoing use of computers. Another area we have to look at regarding the digital divide is how we prepare our students to use the technology we have at hand. My sister was recently let go from General Electric because they are outsourcing their Accounts Payable department to a company in India. She stayed on to train the new department and left with a great education package and pretty sweet payoff, however she is close to 60 years old and facing the search for a new job. According to “News From India” Posted by Outsourcing SEO Services, IBM is the largest multinational firm in India with over 40,000 workers and Google has sales and marketing offices along with research and development centers throughout India. The digital divide may open up to include students who have access to technology but have not been given the education that provides them the "real world skills" to move on to careers that businesses are demanding. I recognize that India and China are providing businesses with work forces that cost less; however, I believe the workers in India and China are hungry for the new tech jobs and are spending their time and energy to learn the skills. I do not see that hunger in the students in the school where I teach.

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