Posts Taged african-americans

The Digital Divide Is A Real Issue, Not Just a Phrase To Use To Get Attention.

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There are alot of people that will tell you that the digital divide is over. That everyone has access to broadband and wireless and the playing field is equal.  I can tell you and show you data from multiple sources to prove that is not the case. Minorities have adopted and have access to the internet at much lower levels than our mainstream counterparts. As internet and wireless technology become bigger parts of mainstream society it becomes more difficult for people to recognize the divide and the gap widens for those are who not connected , which is made up heavily of African Americans and Hispanics.

With all that in mind it’s frustrating to me to see people use the word digital divide to attract attention to agendas that will do nothing to improve the actual divide. I recently read this article that talks about a conference put on by FreePress and it stated that the panel focused on the digital divide. Well my first pause was that the picture of the panelists did not seem to represent the people the divide is affecting. But i decided to let that go and continue to read. The article quickly showed me that all they talked about is how people need to become more educated on media policy and specifically AT&T ‘s policies ( which is all freepress seems to ever talk about).  This is another example a group using a word that has emotion impact to us that care about this issue, to push their own agenda. So can someone let freepress know that if you not going to do anything to help really solve the issue, at least do not use the phrase out of context for your benefit. We have enough challenges to solving the problem already! Also if you any of think I’m exaggerating then read for yourself here.

Second-Class Students

Imagine the outrage from parents, teachers, and the community if a school announced that some of its students would have access to textbooks, research papers, and literature, but other students would be denied those resources.  Some students would be branded as worthy, while others as second class.

It baffles me that broadband Internet access in our schools is not seen as such as concern. However, it is encouraging to hear that this digital divide is not being accepted in some schools- just look at two districts in North Carolina — Asheville and Green County.  “We have kids with voracious appetites for information. It’s our responsibility to give them the tools they need to satisfy their own curiosity of learning,” an Asheville media specialist says.  And Greene County educators say its program to provide laptops “breaks down the digital divide between students who have access to technology at home and those that don’t, and it also better prepares students for a workforce that is increasingly reliant on technology.”

I applaud the efforts of these schools.  What lessons could their experience mean to your schools?  Read more:

http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20091109/NEWS01/911090308

And speaking of Asheville, Mayor Terry Bellamy has made broadband access among the high-profile issues on her agenda.  She doesn’t miss a chance to discuss how the gap must be closed on the digital divide.  I’m sure thinking like that is one reason that in 2005 she was the first African-American elected as mayor in the city.  I’m just as certain it is one of the reasons that just last week she was re-elected for another four-year term.

Why I Decided to Start Blogging: Empowering Communities Through Enabling Technology

First let me start by saying that I’m not in politics or a policy maker. I am a technologist and have been involved in technology for over 15 years, and I can honestly say that technology has had a significant effect on my life. The birth of the Internet has granted opportunities and access to knowledge I would not have obtained otherwise. I have created companies out of the comfort of my home and connected with clients that never met me face-to-face. I have been empowered to lead my career in the direction I wanted.  Without the Internet I would not be where I am today.

Recently, I have become more familiar with the activities of the FCC, including net neutrality regulations being debated in Washington.  Net Neutrality is the claim that prescribing rules and restrictions on how content is accessed and transmitted on the Internet is the singular path to a “free” or “open” Internet. However, I would argue that before the Internet can be truly “neutral” there has to be equal access to it, and these regulations do not support that goal. We still do not have full deployment of broadband Internet to underserved communities, which are disproportionately rural, poor, and/or minority communities. We need to have digital literacy programs that educate these communities on the uses of broadband so their members are aware of the opportunities it offers them. We cannot allow the playing field to be limited. Making sure these communities have access in the first place should be a higher priority than trying to limit it in any way.

A recent PEW study showed that less than 50% of African Americans have adopted broadband. Although that statistic increases some for other minority groups, it’s still a far cry from what adoption rates could look like considering that broadband in available to 92% percent of Americans. These figures provide a simple lesson:  huge segments of our population are underrepresented in the discussion of what I’ll call ‘net values,’ and we need to get these people active and counted. Right now the net neutrality issue is a rich man’s issue, where certain companies and organizations are focused on having rules in place for profiting on future growth and using people’s fears to make believe this is in the best interest of the “people.” What’s really in the best interests of the people is focusing on ways to increase broadband adoption. The Internet allowed me access to opportunity, and we need to give that same opportunity to others. Many of the issues that are facing our country, from healthcare to job creation, to public safety and improving education and our energy consumption, could all be improved by universal access to broadband and additional understanding about on how it can be used to empower the masses.

The Internet today is a place where new entrepreneurs can break down old and outdated business models everyday. It is a place where a young minority kid from the inner city could gain all of the knowledge he or she needs to be successful.

Now, imagine how much more could happen if everyone had access to broadband.  It is my goal through this blog to bring awareness to the issues and opportunities that I feel people should be thinking about when it comes to high-speed Internet access. I hope that through this process more people will become interested in learning about the infinite possibilities of the Internet.

Who Can We Trust?

Public Knowledge, an organization representing what I would call “digital elites,” has joined with other elite activist groups to push the FCC to adopt so-called Net Neutrality rules.  To do this, Public Knowledge uses carefully chosen words like “neutrally,” “openness” and “discrimination.” I find myself wondering whether they have any idea what these words mean.  As they insist that net neutrality will benefit minorities, I have serious doubts.

First, Public Knowledge suggests that our civil rights leaders and minority elected officials are not intelligent enough to think for themselves.  Public Knowledge has questioned our leaders’ desire to ensure that our communities have access to and beneficial use of broadband services. With African American unemployment at 15.4%, Public Knowledge mocks their concerns that minorities without broadband access can’t compete for jobs.  When the African American broadband adoption rate is only 2/3 of that for White Americans, Public Knowledge dismisses our leaders’ support for a National Broadband Plan focused on increasing adoption and use.  With African American men earning 25 percent less than their white counterparts, Public Knowledge scoffs at our leaders’ desire to ensure that public policy promotes affordable broadband.   When our leaders ask legitimate and respectful questions about the possible unintended consequences of net neutrality rules, Public Knowledge shows them the back of their hand.

Public Knowledge even suggests that the concerns of all minorities are only directed at, or merit the attention of, the “African American” Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.   This statement reminds me of a time in our past when outright racial appeals and stereotypes polluted the stream of public discourse.  This should not be tolerated.

I believe all of the FCC Commissioners respect and share the concerns of minority elected officials and civil rights leaders.  I’m confident that they will respond by addressing our leaders’ request for full research and analysis before any rules are adopted that could have adverse results for broadband adoption.

I also applaud African American leaders and scores of Democratic members of Congress who had the wisdom to flash a “caution light” about the unintended consequences of net neutrality rules.  And I detest the effort by Public Knowledge and its allies to brand them as “deserters” and “unAmerican” because their views are not in lockstep with Public Knowledge.

The really ironic thing about Public Knowledge’s insistence that questions must not be asked about their demand for new Internet rules is this: how does the public obtain knowledge if it cannot even ask questions?  I want to see Public Knowledge and its allies drop their presumptuousness and stop pretending that they speak for our communities. Our diverse public has the knowledge, and the right, to speak for itself.

Let me restate our concerns:

    * The risk that a regressive pricing mandate that net neutrality rules could impose will shift online costs to the poor is real.
    * The risk that over-regulation will depress deployment and access is real.
    * The risk that restrictions on network management will reduce the quality and reliability of Internet service for light users — students, the poor on fixed incomes, the elderly, and community organizers who rely on Internet access to reach their communities – is real.

Net neutrality advocates would serve their cause well if they would stop attacking the intelligence and integrity of minority and other Democratic leaders, and stop writing off genuine disagreements or concerns about the potential effects of these regulations.  I ask net neutrality advocates to pause for a moment, start listening to what minorities are saying, and then consider how best to close the digital divide. They should humbly reflect on whether or not net neutrality could be implemented in a manner that is certain to close the digital divide and not just feed the bandwidth desires of the digital elite, a move that would shift costs to low-volume, low-income consumers.

Low barriers to entry are what make the Internet fertile ground for entrepreneurs and activists to disrupt the landscape with new ideas.  We cannot raise these barriers before disadvantaged populations, who have been historically disenfranchised, have the opportunity to enter the field.  I would not have had the success that I’ve had in my life had the Internet not been available to me in the way that it is now.  And I would be doing a disservice to my community if I did not work to make sure it stays that way.

The public has the right to know the answers. That is what we mean by “public knowledge.”  I urge the organization with that name to behave like they mean it.