Since the inception of the internet, there has been an ever-widening gap between those who have computers and internet access and those who do not.
Many who have computer and internet access, never give a great deal of consideration to how their lives may be if they were no longer able to enjoy the instant gratification of web surfing. However, it did not take long for government agencies to realize that lack of computer access would be factors that contribute to rift between the socioeconomic classes.
The US government concluded that if it did not take immediate steps to ensure that the disadvantaged had equal access to computers and the internet, the nation as a whole would not be able to compete globally.
One of the first steps the government would take is to sign Telecommunications Act of 1996. For libraries and schools, this mandate provided access to technology at reduced rates. This program is known as the E-Rate program or the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund.
While this particular endeavor is overseen by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), there are many other similar programs that have been created by individuals who simply have an interest in seeing the community grow.
One such organization is the Digital Divide Community Network. When I interviewed Michael Pettit, Executive Director of Digital Divide Community Network (DDCN) , he explain some of the DDCN objectives.
“The DDCN is the first referral agency in Cyberspace that serves low-income community residents. This is achieved by using the power of centrally located local churches across the nation in low-income areas and the power of the Internet. The DDCN website and guest lecturers connect low-income people to services that they qualify for but are not aware of.
It does not matter if your facility has computers and Internet service or not. The DDCN is in the business of providing pre-owned computers, to our member organizations, that are donated to us. All that is required of you is to provide space for 2 to 3 computers, at minimum, a room, some!
If your organization already has a web site or does not, your organization will have a homepage listed on the national DDCN website. This listing will be another channel of notoriety that will draw people to your organization. Moreover, it is free!” said Pettit.
If you have a financial assistance program, a food distribution program youth program, an educational program, or health program, you may benefit from contacting the DDCN to find out if they have computers you can use. If you are a place of worship, as a hosting facility for the community network, your church will provide the means for community residents to self refer themselves to the free and discounted services of other charitable organizations. This includes the government, private sector, places of worship, and organizations such as yours. The DDCN offers community network member organizations yet another way to serve people by becoming a Community Resource Center to meet the diverse needs of the community.
Interview with Michael Pettit, Executive Director of Digital Divide Community Network