Public Policy Beyond the Digital Divide
Abstract of the seminar presentation on November 11, 2002
Kent State University
The forthcoming book, "Beyond the Digital Divide" (Georgetown University Press), redefines the issue of the digital divide in broader terms. The authors argue that the problem has been too narrowly conceived in public debate, research, and programs as primarily an issue of access. In reality, there are multiple information technology divides an access divide, a skill divide, an economic opportunity divide, and a democratic divide. Access without skill is insufficient. In the age of the Internet, this includes basic literacy skills and "information literacy," or the ability to locate and evaluate information. Information technology access and skills merit policy attention because of their implications for economic opportunity and democratic participation, so experiences and attitudes involving technology are important to understand within these contexts as well.
In this research seminar, two of the authors discussed their findings on the four divides and their recommendations for public policy, based on research that explored the information technology experiences, attitudes, and needs of low-income individuals. The research is based on a national telephone survey conducted in July 2001, including a random sample drawn from high-poverty census tracts, as well as a general random sample. The research was funded by foundation and state grants.