The Report of The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy
Programs are already underway in which high school students volunteer to help with technology efforts. But the local nature of such initiatives means that there is little coordination among communities. A Geek Corps would weave together the local and the national through networks of passionate youth. Ideally, such a program would have the same stature as the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps, such that participants would be welcome into jobs with open arms. Yet, the real benefit for most youth would be a deep understanding of how different communities work and how democracy plays out at the local level. Those who invited Geek Corps participants to their community should relish the opportunity to help these youth understand local democracy and governance. The result is cross-generational civic education. Geek Corps participants would need to have varying types of technological skills. The pay would not be overly generous. The unique quality of the opportunity would make up for the low level of income in the short-term. There would need to be a process for assessment to assure that local needs were met. A national staff could help coordinate local participants and provide a technological backbone to the project. To work, this program will need support at both the local and national levels. It would make most sense for communities to fund a portion of the costs and for their contributions to be matched either by foundations, corporations, or the federal government. Local communities would also have to provide a structure for the Geek Corps participants to engage with the relevant community players.
Published on Feb 5, 2010