Sunday, May 3, 2009

Building the Bridge: Learning from Seattle." in Bridging the digital divide: Technology, community and public policy

Your assignment, in preparation for our final, is to thoroughly discuss the remaining articles via our blog. Our collaboration will make the entire review a lot more productive for everyone.

Keep the following tasks in mind as you're blogging the article:

1.)Provide a summary
2.)Define key terms
3.)Analyze potentially weak points in the author’s argument
4.)Compare your article to our past readings
5.)Read the other groups’ blog posts and comparing it to your article
6.)Relate your article to the larger themes from the class

Feel free to comment on any other group's blog discussions as well. You should be reading them anyway, and providing extra commentary will help us all.

In addition, we'll be distributing a study guide later. Please use this same blog space to discuss that guide.


  1. Key Terms:

    -Center on Urban & Metropolitan Policy--an agency that conducted a study on Seattle--reported that Seattle has a strong concentration of biotechnology, software, & aerospace industries

    -PAN--Public Access Network--"electronic city hall"--allows citizens to access city information & services & contact city officials

    -CTTAB--Citizens' Telecommunications & TEchnology Advisory Board--makes recommendations to the mayor and city council on the issues of community-wide interest relateing to telecommunications and technology

    -CLAF--Citizens' Literacy and Access Fund--fund used by CTTAB, established to help narrow the digital divide in Seattle

    -Technology Resource Map--directory of technology initiatives across the city--first CLAF project

    -TMF--Technology Matching Fund--provides resources to Seattle's neighborhood-based and citywide organizations for citizen-driven technology literacy and access projects--consists of 2 categories 1)large-scale capacity-building projects that take up to 12 months to complete 2)grants for $5000 or less to fund smaller and less complex projects

    -Digital Promise--an alliance of private and public sector groups that seeks to establish, maintain, and support CTCs in affordable housing developments throughout the state

    -Archdiocesan Housing Authority--largest provider of permanent low-income and emergency housing in the Puget Sound region--helps residents achieve self-sufficiency so that they can lead fulfilling lives

    -Seattle Community Technology Alliance--consortium of Seattle's Department of Information Technology, the Seattle Public Library, Seattle Public Schools, the Seattle Public Housing Authority, the Seattle Community College District, community-based organizations, and corporate partners funded by a $3 million grant from the US Department of Education--aims to ensure that technology opportunities are available to Seattle's underserved communities by improving the impact, effectiveness, and sustainability of CTCs and strengthening the network of public access terminals through the city

    -Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation--has initiated grant programs that fund a range of activities including providing scholarships to membrs of underrepresented groups to study IT-related subjects, working with community-based organizations to provide public access to information, and supporting teachers to integrate technology into the curriculum in their classrooms

    -Boeing--supports the Bellevue Community College worker retraining program

    -NPower--leading IT technical assistance provider to nonprofit organizations in Seattle and the Puget Sound region--frovides help with technology-related projects

    -Seattle Community Network--one of the first community networks to be intiated--comprehensive website devoted to providing informatino about the Seattle region, and connecting residents to area resources and to each other

  2. Summary

    Seattle has responded to the socioeconomic arrangements of the information age by working to become a technology literate city. It already has better-than-average rates of access to IT and has 118 community technology sites. It is believed that IT can play a valuable role in addressing social concerns within cities. It is believed by Seattle residents that the ability to use and access IT is vital to ensure a democratic, just, and economically sustainable city. Local officials must actively promote equitable access to IT. Seattle matches the conception that the majority of people who lack access tend to be older, low-income, low education, and African American or Latino. The Seattle Public Access Network was created to serve as an electronic city hall. Citizens could obtain city information and services electronically and communicate with city officials. To serve those residents without computer access, the city established public work stations with access to the World Wide Web in neighborhood and community centers. The Citizens’ Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board was created to encourage and promote affordable access to and use of telecommunications and technology; advocate, solicit, and facilitate citizen participation in telecommunications and technology decision making; and measure and evaluate the effectiveness of telecommunications and technology policies and programs. The Technology Matching Fund has provided money to initiate CTCs, but they do not provide on going support. It has helped to expand the community technology initiatives, enabled existing programs to develop sustainability, and has raised awareness. Seattle is in the midst of its Information Technology Indicator Project, which will ultimately measure the impact of IT on health and vitality of the city. Seattle wants to build a community where IT is enhancing the local economy, access is equitable and affordable, IT needs are met and applied to solving social issues, technology is promoting relationship building and community development, and the use of technology supports the sustainability of residents’ quality of life. Many resources have been used to help reach the goal, including: NNC, AHA, SCTA, and key local players. In conclusion, IT tools can be used to work toward larger goals such as democracy, equity, and efficiency. CTCs do not have sufficient capacity to narrow the digital divide on their own, but they do point the way towards an appropriate long term solution. In Seattle, the government has leveraged the existing work of CTCs by helping to eliminate barriers that prevent them from expanding and then by channeling the lessons learned from these growing institutions to existing institutions.

  3. I think this article relates to the larger themes from class in many ways. In the article they stressed that access to IT is essential for the well being and social status of the city.The article shows that technology is not only becoming necessary for studying and learning but for social concerns, medical use etc. The digital divide is also proven because Seattle just like most places show that the technology gap exists between different age groups, young and old, and is seen in lower class, low income minority groups, African American being the least privelaged here.
    Building the gap also stresses financial divides and trying to make technology more affordable for everyone. Since it currently isn't Seattle is making sure if provides plenty of public access sites for the residents.

  4. This article relates to a couple of articles we have read in the past. The first article it relates to is Bishop's article "Public Libraries and Networked Information services in low-income communities" this article looked at a low-income, African American community. This article showed that this lower socio-economic group of African Americans had limited access to information and technology. The article studied what this group of people used the internet for and where else they were able to find this information if they did not have access. This relates to "Building the Bridge: Learning from Seattle" because African Americans were the majority of people who did not have access. This article also showed how Seattle put an emphasis on internet access to create ensure that Seattle is a democratic, just, and economically sustainable city. This emphasis the purpose that access and IT will serve.
    The Seattle article also relates to the Hsieh article called "Understanding Digital Inequality..." which focuses on the inequalities in levels of access between different socio-economic groups. These groups are based on income and level of education. Even in Seatle, which shows signs of little digital divide (with 76% percent of residents hace computers in their homes) 51% of those who don't are African-American, many of those without home computers have a low income, and many have a high school education or lower. This shows that there is still a gap in access between groups of different race, income, and education.

  5. While the article did not have a particularly clear argument and was instead more of a review of how Seattle is attempting to close the Digital Divide, there are still a few things which deserve a more critical look.

    The article goes on at length about how there are more and more CTCs being set up using one-time money. The problem with this is that the principal cost for any technology use is never the up-front capitol cost. The on-going, continual use costs, like rent, electricity, Internet connection bandwidth, hardware and software maintenance, and staff wages, in any sort of technology use, will always far outweigh the initial capitol cost.

    While the initial, one-time donations may serve to lower the initial leap to form a CTC in a neighbourhood, it ends up being wasted time and money if the community cannot continue to support the CTC on-going costs and the CTC degrades to the point of being useless or closes all together.

    Additionally, since the CTCs are expected to be funded by the community after the initial seed money is used up, the poorest communities, who are arguably the hardest hit by the digital divide due to complete lack of technological resources, see very little to no benefit from the creation of CTCs under this model since they cannot afford to continually fund the CTC. No one would argue that the divide has been lessened in Seattle given that over 70% of homes have a computer, but it is always easiest to achieve the first 90% of a goal, and so that is where the focus ends up since it requires the least effort for the most apparent gain, but it really is that last 10% that needs the most help and attention because it is there that the divide is deepest, and if we can succeed there, the other 90% will be smooth sailing.

  6. Be able to describe some of the solutions that various organizations in Seattle designed to help close the digital divide. Would any of these solutions benefit the Collins family in Chicago? If so, which ones?
    o Department of Neighborhoods: leadership training, neighborhood matching fund, neighborhood service centers
    o Office of Economic Development: technology sector development, enterprise zone oversight (helps to target location of CTCs), Conduit for Seattle Jobs Initiative (provides tours for students coming through SJI)
    o Department of Parks and Recreation: community centers (providing internet connectivity), Senior programs, youth programs
    o Department of Human Services: youth (fund startup and expansion of youth technology programs), youth employment program, aging and disability (community center for disabled), New citizen initiative (IT programs targeted at new immigrants), Homeless and Housing (operates free Internet terminals and promotes use of CTCs by homeless as well as funding homeless organization CTC projects)
    o Seattle Arts Commission: co-sponsored forum on arts and technology, Working on creation of artists resource centers, Encourages artists to use CTCs, Funded media arts education projects

  7. I checked the other blogs to relate what they wrote about this article to what was written here, and honestly, I can't really compare them. Caitlin's summary was by far the most complete, as well as Kayla's list of terms (although, I'm not sure how many of those we are going to be tested on). Most blogs do not have an extensive study guide like our class.

    The one thing I did notice is that one person said there wasn't really a criticism to the article because all points are taken into consideration, the good and the bad. I think the bad points were taken into consideration in chapter 9 though more so, although it does address some weak points in the conclusion. But you can read Rick's argument for that.

    Overall, there is very little to compare to, which is slightly disappointing as it would be interesting to see what other classes opinions are. But kudos to our class! :)