aDDRessing Digital inclusion in eveRy Mission BY aMy saMPle WaRD, CEO, NTEN
o you have a high-speed broadband Internet connection in your home? According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project data, 30% of US adults (aged 18 and older) do not. Looking beyond the US, that number increases to 68% of people globally. For those of us that do have Internet in our homes, we are able to communicate with others regardless of location, connect to services and information, and even create opportunities for growth and improvement in ways that those without Internet simply cannot. We can just as easily send a message to our elected oﬃcials as we can to our colleagues or even our child’s teacher. We can look for a doctor or research a health issue. We can learn about breaking news or complete a college degree. In 2011, a report to the United Nations General Assembly by UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue states that “the Internet has become a key means by which individuals can exercise their right to freedom and expression.” There are a number of deﬁnitions in use when it comes to Internet access and adoption. At NTEN, we consider the “digital divide” deﬁned similarly to Pew, as adults that do not have broadband access at home. It is important to understand the diﬀerence between focusing on
access to the Internet at all, versus access at home. Recognizing that the city has a public library with a computer that is available for Internet access is important to the larger ecosystem of community services. It does not, though, help us measure (or, to go further, ensure) that all members of our community or city have the same opportunities to participate in civic life, make social connections, and be an advocate for their own health and wellbeing
“UNLESS EVERY COMMUNITY MEMBER WE SERVE IS ABLE TO PARTICIPATE IN AND BENEFIT FROM ALL THAT IS AVAILABLE ONLINE, WE ARE NOT TRULY BUILDING CAPACITY FOR CHANGE IN OUR COMMUNITY AND WILL NOT BE ABLE TO SUCCESSFULLY MAKE LASTING CHANGE IN THE WORLD.”
through access to the Internet. Library or other community center access points are critical to serving the community. They are not equal to home Internet access because they are, by their nature, limited to the open hours of the facility, the number of individuals trying to share limited computers, and the available support to keep both the machines and the users connected. “Digital inclusion,” then, can be deﬁned as eﬀorts to address the divide – from resources to education, and individual interventions to government-led initiatives. As La Rue noted in the UN report, “the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, [so] ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all states.”
efforts to address the Divide The digital divide is not new; neither is the existence of organizations working to address it locally and globally. The programs and initiatives for digital inclusion work have naturally evolved over the last two decades as both the communities and as the digital tools themselves change, as have the resources available and partners interested in being part of this work. There are three core focus areas for digital inclusion traditionally, including, Awareness and interest: knowledge and understanding of the value of the Internet and the services and access it provides.
Aﬀordable devices: access to acquire or purchase devices that
NTEN: CHANGE | MARCH 2015
Digital Inclusion and Technical Divides: What's Next?