Narrowing the Digital Divide: A Call to Action

Bari Samad
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To me, the true power and beauty of community-based organizing lies in a small group of individuals taking on a significant social problem and solving it for the common good. The new NetSquared platform is up and going, and I am thrilled to challenge the NetSquared community to connect with one another on solving a social problem that has everything to do with furthering the common good.

First, a little background.

Until recently, the term “digital divide” has been commonly used to represent the gap between those who have access to technology (particularly the Internet) and those who do not. In my previous post, I wrote about how gaps in digital literacy are creating a new type of digital divide.

Researchers Jen Schradie and Howard Besser have helped reframe the digital divide to include gaps in a number of areas dealing with digital literacy. In short, rapidly emerging digital inequalities are now based on much more than simple matters of Internet access.

I think most of us got comfortable with the idea that bridging the access-based digital divide was a larger “structural” issue that somebody else (organizations or the government) was working on and responsible for. Organizations such as ZeroDivide came into existence to bridge the access-based digital divide and these organizations have now evolved to address gaps in digital literacy. Their work is commendable.

But is it enough?

The digital landscape has grown and changed tremendously over the last ten years. Addressing the new and emerging issues of digital inequality is an area ready for larger scale community-based action. In fact, it is in some ways our collective responsibility as digital citizens to level the playing field.

As a community, NetSquared members are richly engaged and committed to leveraging technology for the greater social good, especially on the local level. In that spirit, narrowing the digital divide is a perfect and appropriate problem to open up to the community for turning their dedication into action.

The Call to Action

If you have read this far, then you probably have some concern about an emerging digital society of haves and have nots. Why, that may look too much like the rest of America.

So here is my challenge. Create a project on NetSquared.org that seeks to narrow one or more of the new digital literacy based divides and invite your friends and collegues to support your project. Your project could be local (in your community) or virtual. There is no right or wrong approach. Only make it clear how your project specifically narrows the digital divide. Tag your project with “Digital Literacy” and “Digital Divide”.

Good luck and do drop me a comment if you take up this challenge or have any questions.