Digital Divide, Digital Equity … and Access? Digital Equity is the New Civil Rights Issue


Are we there yet/

New Technologies for New Times.. are you stuck in dialup?

Teragrid Resources, using IPad

Long ago there was a book written about “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison. Here is the Wikipedia stub for the book.
Invisible Man is a novel written by Ralph Ellison, and the only one that he published during his lifetime . It won him the National Book Award in 1953. The novel addresses many of the social and intellectual issues facing African-Americans in the early twentieth century, including black nationalism, the relationship between black identity and Marxism, and the reformist racial policies of Booker T. Washington, as well as issues of individuality and personal identity.In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Invisible Man nineteenth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Time magazine included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.[1] You might have to read the book to get the connection with the lack of broadband. Read the first chapter. The story is sad, but , it works for this analogy.


This statement could work for those who have limited or no access.

“I am an invisible man….I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”
— Ralph Ellison (The Invisible Man)

Got Broadband?

For those people who are not currently online with broadband access, they may seem like the invisible man that was in the novel. Groups championing the use of technology, point to their online resources and information. Those groups who used to have paper magazines and handouts decided not to offer them anymore. Everyone is online  they thought? Think again.

Even the new broadband map has its critics. The San Jose Mercury News  has this to say.

It is frustrating to see that after two years of work, some of the information is incomplete, incorrect or out of date. There’s much you might like to know that the map and its accompanying database don’t provide, most notably how much broadband services cost in your area. The map just launched, so it is likely to get better over time. The government is allowing anyone to download and use the database and is providing tools to allow other websites to access the map and data. It also is taking input from consumers to identify errors that will be corrected in updates. Here’s hoping that the government regulators follow through on those revisions and seriously consider updating the site more often. Because the National Broadband Map has the potential to be a very useful tool for consumers — but it’s not there yet.

For the people who are learning about Cloud Computing and online content , the devil is in the details. For the school systems who are reading the new technology plan, which is a good plan there is just one problem. How to , if there is no connectivity in the broadband sense.

If you are rural, One Third of Rural America Has Access

You can check the reality of the New National Broadband Map here
National Broadband Map
Popular Reports: Quick access to download the most frequently generated reports. … goal of embodying the spirit of the Internet by delivering the National Broadband Map …

The US government’s long-awaited National Broadband Map has arrived, with tons of ways to discover what kinds of Internet services are (or aren’t) available in your area. We’ve got a guided tour of the site.

Is there Digital Equity in your community?

The Digital Equity Toolkit. The toolkit points educators to free and inexpensive, high quality resources that help address the digital divide in the classroom and community. This toolkit was developed by Robert McLaughlin and  associates and has been re-edited for tofay’s times.

I have been working with and helping to point our inequity since I was on the NIIAC and we framed the policy that we thought would bring us national broadband much earlier.  We thought that students, families and communities would be able to get access through libraries, community centers, and schools.

Bonnie Bracey Sutton

PowerofUS Foundation

If you read our statement , we aim to change the face of schooling by creating digital equity in a national transformation of schooling.

3 thoughts on “Digital Divide, Digital Equity … and Access? Digital Equity is the New Civil Rights Issue

  1. This from Allison Clark. She shared it with me on Facebook.
    Submitted by Allison Clark on Oct 19, 2009, 10:54 AM
    By now many of you have viewed my presentation I gave during the residency portion of my HASTAC Distinguished Scholar at Duke University’s John Hope Franklin Center. It was here that I made what some may consider a bold statement access + digital literacy is the new civil rights. Perhaps you are thinking what qualifies her to make this type of declaration? Doesn’t she know her history? Doesn’t she know the sacrifices that civil rights pioneers made? So, I think it is important that I begin this series by introducing myself by sharing a bit about my life’s fifteen year journey that has brought me to the point of this statement and how it has led me to craft the Access + Digital Literacy Project.

    I am Dr. Allison Clark, a Research Scientist at the University Illinois Urbana Champaign and HASTACs first Distinguished Scholar in Residence. I was fortunate to spend a portion of my time at the John Hope Franklin Center, the second half continues virtually. For the past 15 years I have worked in the area of digital literacy, access and inclusion.
    It feels as if technology chose me and not I it. Yet, once it found me, I was launched like a rocket into the field of Information and Communication Technologies. My relationship with computers went from simple word processing in the mid to late 80’s to being immersed in the world of high performance computing in the mid 90’s.

    I arrived at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign (UIUC) in the winter of 1995 to participate in the Big Ten’s Traveling Scholars Program. At the time I was a Mass Media Ph.D. candidate from Michigan State University. As a Big Ten Traveling Scholar I was able to work with a scholar, whose expertise was not available on my campus. At the time, my studies were not focused on any aspect of technology nor computing, I came to UIUC to augment my research by working with an expert in the area of popular culture, that person was Professor Lawrence Grossberg. However, I had left my research assistanceship behind and was in need of employment. I found myself as a temporary hire at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). NCSA had released Mosaic, the first popular graphical browser created for the World Wide Web in 1993. As we know, Mosaic revolutionized computing by bringing it to the masses. I would find that working at NCSA would revolutionize my approach to scholarship.

    At the end of my temporary position, I became a permanent employee at NCSA. During my ten-year tenure at NCSA I was allowed to learn, expand and grow in the area of high performance computing. During my time at NCSA I worked with scientific and education communities to support collaborations with the NCSA and the National Computational Science Alliance (Alliance), to create an advanced computational infrastructure for the 21st century. My activities included designing, developing, leading and implementing projects and programs with educators and scientist to integrate high performance computing and communications technologies into higher education institutions and new communities.

    As a result of my time at NCSA my research interests began to shift and change. I became interested in examining culturally specific approaches as an intervention strategy to aide in the creation of digital equity for underserved communities. I was ready to complete my graduate work and took a years leave of absence to examine to complete my graduate studies.

    Upon my return to NCSA I became the Assistant Director of Digital Equity Initiatives. In this role I developed programs to create strategic relationships between the Alliance and members of underrepresented groups in the area of high performance computing. I developed a Digital Equity Initiatives program and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) program in an effort to create a comprehensive effort to involve African American, Hispanic, Native American, and female scientists and engineers in the National Computational Science Alliance and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications research. Members of these underrepresented groups were provided valuable hands-on experiences with Alliance and NCSA technologies and teams. This served to diversify Alliance teams to ensure that the new tools and applications developed in the National Science Foundations Partnership for Advanced Computing and Infrastructure program would benefit all people and not just a select group. The primary goal of Digital Equity Initiatives was to instill diversity in computing to assist in the equitable dissemination of new technologies fairly across racial, ethnic, and cultural lines.

    At the time I began informally exploring the possible impact of computing on other underserved communities the arts and humanities. In 2005 I left NCSA to become the Co-Director of the Seedbed Initiative for Transdomain Creativity at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It was a natural transition as the Seedbed Initiatives credo was creativity is the shared foundation of art, science, the humanities, and technology. It is at this interface that I began to explore the feasibility of utilizing cyberinfrastructure to create self-sustained interdisciplinary communities of collaboration involving technologists, social scientist, artist and humanists from around the world. I soon discovered that the research commonality of these communities that are traditionally underserved by high performance computing and cyberinfrastructure are the same as those traditionally served by HPC and cyberinfrastructure data. Towards this end, I began to build upon the UIUC campus, national and international collaborations network by working in conjunction with artist and humanist to explore the creation of cyber environments to support a distributed model of intellect and knowledge discovery. To accomplish this I began working to establish relationships with key consortia in the humanities and arts such as the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC), the United Kingdom’s e-Science Arts and Humanities Board, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) for the Support of Research, the e-Science Core Program (EPSRC), the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN).

    This deepened my commitment to investigating methodologies on how to bridge the participation gap in computing with creative and innovative approaches that are not typically embraced by the academy. I was devastated by what I saw in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The HASTAC InFormation Year became an outlet to channel this emotion and a way to demonstrate how advanced technology could be used in the service of social change. Each participating campus selected a theme for the yearlong InFormation programming and we chose InCommon. It was in September of 2006 that UIUC kicked off the HASTAC InFormation Year with Katrina: After the Storm Civic Engagement Through Arts Humanities and Technology. This three-day summit created a virtual community of artists, community members, technologists, activists, scientists, teachers, healthcare professionals, and social entrepreneurs from across the country to showcase, highlight and discuss creative approaches and solutions to critical social issues. The summit demonstrated how advanced technology could be utilized to inspire innovative approaches and solutions to critical social issues brought into focus by this devastating disaster.

    I recently completed a research study in on Community Technology Centers in Chicago Illinois as part of a grant from the State of Illinois to the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. My time in Chicago CTCs coupled with a few personal experiences of my own and friends were eye opening for me. I realized that while I was doing good work, it was from the goggle view and I needed to be at the street level

    Stay tuned.

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