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Fighting the Digital Divide

In Wednesday’s class we discussed ways to fight the digital divide. While I think some of the ideas presented to us were unrealistic and rather far-fetched, I think several actually had merit to them. The idea I most enthusiastically support is the proposal to put laptop labs in low-income public schools. This was one of the few options that does not require someone to either own a computer or purchase access to the Internet. If students in public schools have access to laptops, it doesn’t even matter if they have a computer at home – they will still know how to use it. This will be extremely helpful as they go on, especially if they look for jobs that require Internet savvy. Though this may only help fight the digital divide in certain countries, it could still go a long way.

Free classes in public places could also play into this option. The schools with laptop labs could also offer after-school or nighttime classes for nonstudents – much like some schools offer language classes to immigrants and non-English speakers. The cooperation between the two ideas would be easy to maneuver, particularly in areas with a high concentration of immigrants. The students will learn to navigate the Internet during school, and their families can do the same through the schools’ free classes.

One solution that I feel has a lot of problems is citywide wireless. This has already been implemented in Minneapolis, but not without issues. It appears that the Internet can only be accessed through the city in certain parts – possibly where most residents would already have access. It would also seem that to be able to access the citywide wireless network, you’ll have to have a computer. The whole issue with the digital divide is that some people simply can’t afford to spend several hundred dollars on a computer, regardless if that means they can access the Internet for free.