Public libraries are approaching the digital divide using different strategies. Aside from providing access to computers and internet, the most common digital divide–bridging mechanism is group classes on technology. The public affirms this focus for libraries: 94 percent of Americans believe public libraries should “offer programs to teach people, including kids and senior citizens, how to use digital tools such as computers, smartphones and apps.”
Posts Tagged ‘digital divide’
While 77 percent of Americans have smartphones and nearly 50 percent have tablets, that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to use them well. A recent international study shows nearly 40 percent of adults age 16-65 have little to no technology skills.
PLA Deputy Executive Director Larra Clark talks with John B. Horrigan of the Pew Research Center about his report, “Digital Readiness Gaps,” which finds that just over half of American adults have low levels of readiness to use digital tools as they pursue lifelong learning.
A recent New York Times article by Cecilia Kang profiled a Detroit, Michigan, community struggling with Internet access. The article highlights how residents without broadband access struggle to participate in Detroit’s economic recovery and reports that “Detroit has the worst rate of Internet access of any big American city, with four in ten of its 689,000 residents lacking broadband, according to the Federal Communications Commission.”
Minecraft has taken over many households and libraries over the past several years. “To date, Minecraft has been downloaded more than 60 million times and is so popular that videos just discussing the game on YouTube attract 2.4 billion views.” Libraries have incorporated this game into many of their yearly programs, and sessions about the innovative game have been given at conferences across the country.
Digitization of archival materials has radically changed the way we search for and retrieve information. Gone are the days when one had to book a flight to examine documents in a foreign museum or spend hours reeling through microfilms at a library. The New York Public Library is one in a long list of major institutions that now offer their collections in digital format.
If you are a library patron lacking Internet in your home, have no fear—many public libraries across the country are teaming up with cell phone providers like Sprint and Verizon to offer library hotspots for checkout. These hotspot devices can be checked out for an allotted period of time designated by participating public libraries. Unsure about what a hotspot is? Well, the Chicago Public Library has defined a library Wi-Fi hotspot as “a device you can use to connect a mobile-enabled device, such as a laptop, smartphone or tablet, to the Internet. The hotspot is portable, so you can connect your device almost wherever you are, like at home, on the bus or in the park.” In a world filled with endless technology, public libraries once again prove that they can continue being relevant in a world deeply embedded in a technological revolution that once “threatened” to put public libraries out of business for good.
In an editorial in the November 2014 MIT Technology Review, the writer concluded that “the open Internet is in danger. But not from lack of neutrality—from the prospect of FCC regulating it like a 20th –century utility.” The article proceeded to provide a brief commentary on “network neutrality.” This refers to the concept that service providers should not block data from particular websites, charge content providers for delivering content, or set paid “fast lanes” i.e. charging extra to some people for faster services while others get stuck in “slow lanes.”
Many of us take for granted the iPads, Kindles, smart phones, and computers at our fingertips, myself included. Despite all the technological devices in our lives today, there is still a digital divide in this country. While this is not news to some, many people in lower income areas do not have internet or computer access at home.1 This means that they are missing out on applying for jobs and are unable to advance their technology skills. In Chicago, less than 50 percent of the population in lower income neighborhoods have internet at home. In an effort to address this problem, the Chicago Public Library will initiate a wi-fi hotspot lending pilot program at various library branches.
It’s difficult to read much about technology and not hear about the digital divide. The lack of access to technology is still a very real part of life for many people across the United States. To help combat this obstacle, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) provided funds to libraries across the United States through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.These funds were to assist patrons in having better access to technology. In May, a report was released by the ALA that discussed how libraries were affected by the program.