CITA Action Plan - August 2002

A Networked World and, the Digital Divide

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Networked World and, the Digital Divide

Whether it’s business, government, education, or community services, technology is changing the way we live and work. And, wired or wireless, we are moving from a world of simple voice communication and isolated desktop computing to an interconnected world. The landmark report, Living in a Networked World, published by the Washington DC based Computer Systems Policy Project www.cspp.org, chronicles the business, consumer and public policy implications of a Networked World. The report reflects that the proliferation of the Internet, mobile phones, communication devices, eCommerce and networks marks only the very beginning of a new age of anytime/anywhere connectedness where everyone and everything is connected at all times. This "connectedness" is transforming the Internet into a network that touches every aspect of our lives, changing our world and the way we live, work, educate, and govern ourselves as well as interpersonal and international relations. The convergence of voice, data and video, the growth of communication bandwidth, and the low cost of access devices are paving the way for a new, inclusive model of connectedness. The focus of the next generation of information technology will shift from faster computers, speedier connections and less expensive prices to creating networked communities.

Key Points about the Networked World:

  • The Network will operate everywhere, connecting people and devices seamlessly. The Internet is but a preview of a much more powerful, valuable and user-friendly network.

  • The Law of Network Effects, which states that value is created at an exponential rate every time a single person or device is connected to the network, will be the driving force in the Networked World, offering unparalleled opportunity for growth and learning.

  • Faster, less expensive, and smaller computers, appliances, and intelligent devices-combined with expanding broadband capacity-will enable the Law of Network Effects.

  • Traditional barriers to productivity and interaction-such as time, distance and cost-will be eliminated or drastically reduced.

  • The Networked World will empower individuals to live and work where they choose. There will be mobility without movement.

  • Reduced cost of access driven by the Law of Network Effects will drive inclusiveness and help close the "digital divide" based on ownership of technology. The challenge will shift to assuring that everyone has the education and skills needed to reap the benefits of the Networked World.

The Digital Divide

The Digital Divide is generally described as the gap between the haves and the have-nots – those who have access to technology and the Internet and those who do not.  The have-nots generally include minorities, low income, and some geographic areas. This is a particular problem for many students who do not have equal access to technology in schools and at home.

In a recent Tucson Link Forum presented by Tucson’s Community Information and Telecommunications Alliance, it was determined that the definition of Digital Divide should be expanded to include the have’s and have-nots, the cans and can-nots and the wills and will-nots. This definition recognizes that perhaps an even larger problem than the haves and have-nots is the can-nots – those who cannot effectively use the Technologies of the New Economy. For example, many small business people are not prepared to use new technologies for business-to-business eCommerce transactions, new customer relations management strategies, the design and manufacture of products, workforce development, and development of strategic business partnerships. The Digital Divide also includes the many people who do not have access to educational opportunities that will prepare them for the workplace of the 21st century.

Then there are the will-nots – those people who will not engage in the use and adoption of technology due to a variety of reasons: cost, fear of technology, don’t see the value, etc.  Should we be concerned about the will-nots? If they are small businesses that will not be able to compete effectively in the networked world it will not only impact them, but also our economy.

Bridging The Digital Divide

Our challenge as a community -Bridge the Digital Divide to insure that all Arizona’s citizens, businesses and organizations will have:

  •  access to technology and the Internet

  •  the skills to effectively use technology

Examples:  Promote public access at libraries, schools and retail sites - encourage communities to open schools for after school hours, expand access in libraries and other public venues; develop a network of Technology Resource Centers to support businesses and citizens in the adoption and effective implementation of technology.

To bridge the Digital Divide and prepare Arizona for the Networked World we need links to the electronic future that include:

  • Resources and strategies to promote and support the adoption of eCommerce and other information technologies in business, government and education

  •  A state-of-the art telecommunications infrastructure including a community network and affordable high speed Internet access

  •  Voice, video and data networks and applications that ride over the infrastructure that will link the Tucson community and support Tucson’s educational, economic and community development

  • Strategies and resources to insure that all of Tucson’s citizens, businesses and organizations will have the tools, technologies and skills to participate in the electronic future