I appreciated “Deus Ex Machina” (4/6) for making me focus on how the digital divide affects Washington, D.C. But if the article was supposed to convince me that technology is a false god, as the subtitle of the article suggests, I’m not sure it succeeded. I believe that technology can be a powerful tool in the fight to shrink the digital divide and to reduce unemployment. I believe this so strongly that I joined the AmeriCORPS/VISTA Teaming for Technology D.C. program so I could use my technology skills to help the nonprofit community in the area.
The article suggests that the mayor’s office and the D.C. Council are laying the groundwork to increase the percentage of technology-related jobs in D.C. The school board is at least creating a high school with a technology emphasis, even if it might have chosen a location more apt to serve areas that have a greater need for access to technology. Many nonprofit organizations, such as DCLL, ARCH, and the East of the River Technology Collaborative, appear to be working to provide assessment and training in technology-related fields. The article voiced the concern that enough isn’t being done to address the underlying issues that contribute to and create the digital divide. I believe the author missed an opportunity to explore some of the services that are available in D.C.
I typed “digital divide solutions” into the first available search engine I came across and found Digital Divide Solutions (http://www.asu.edu/Digital DivideSolutions/). The first entry on its “Programs That Work” page is Community Technology Centers Network (http://www.ctcnet.org/). CTCNet is a network of community technology centers across the country with 20 locations in the D.C. area. They provide access to computers and computer-related technology. There are centers that operate as one part of a larger organization, such as in the Anacostia Museum (http://www.si.edu/ anacostia) and organizations like Byte Back Inc. (http://www.byteback.org) that are more specifically dedicated to technology issues. Another program I discovered is PowerUp (http://www.powerup.org
/index.shtml), which is a national program addressing the digital divide and providing technology resources in after-school settings. PowerUp has a local program at the Southern Ridge housing project in Anacostia, where it is helping to expand computer programs at the surrounding schools and introduce computer skills for children in an after-school program located in the housing development.
Technology can also be used to support organizations that provide services to help solve unemployment and education issues. Foundations like the Benton Foundation and the Foundation Center provide resources and services for the D.C. nonprofit community. The Support Center of Washington provides consulting and training at discounted rates to nonprofit organizations, and Teaming for Technology DC will be providing database and Web-design assistance to youth and family organizations.
I think it is in the District’s best interest to work toward the goal of creating a percentage of technology-related jobs in the city more in line with the number of technology jobs available in the surrounding communities. More revenue for the city can be generated over time, and with luck more people will move to the city or stay in the city to work at the new jobs. As long as programs like the ones I listed above are supported to ensure that all segments of the population can have equal access to the new higher-paying employment opportunities, I believe that technology can be a powerful weapon to fight the digital divide.
Teaming for Technology DC