Explaining Digital Inclusion
I often struggle with how to explain digital inclusion to folks totally unfamiliar with the issue. When trying to explain to my 13 year old daughter (Tess) what I do for a living, I may have hit upon a solution. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Think of one of your friends that does not have internet at home. Why doesn't she?
Tess: Maybe her parents can't afford it.
Me: Can't afford what, the internet service or the computer?
Tess: Maybe both.
Me: Where does your friend use computers?
Tess: At the library and at school but they are not open all the time so it is hard for her to get her assignments done.
Me: Now think about her grandma. Why doesn't she have a computer with internet at home?
Tess: Maybe she can't afford it either.
Me: Possibly but what other reason can you think of?
Tess: Maybe she doesn't want a computer.
Me: Right, maybe she doesn't know what she could do with it.
Tess: Or she doesn't know how to use one.
Me: Right. So what I do is help communities who are figuring out how to help folks like your friend, her family and her grandma.
Tess: Ooooh. That's cool.
That's digital inclusion. Access and use of computing gadgets and the internet.
The access might be at home or in public locations. The use requires understanding how to use a computer / internet and the benefits of being online. The barriers include cost of broadband service and cost of a computer. The one barrier Tess and I did not discuss is availability of broadband service. Living in an urban area with multiple broadband providers, availability is not an issue for Tess' friend but it certainly may be for folks in rural America.