Helping to Bridge the Digital Divide with Free Software and Services

Helping to Bridge the Digital Divide with Free Software and Services

Jason G. Caudill (Carson-Newman College, USA)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/ijossp.2010100102
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The growing importance of digital media in citizens’ participation in government is a major issue in obtaining government services, elections and campaigning in the 21st century. In order to participate in the consumption and creation of online media, citizens must have access to, and knowledge of, appropriate technology resources. There exists a gap between those who have access to technology and those who do not A gap commonly referred to as the digital divide. While there are many different aspects to the digital divide one of them is access to the software necessary to participate in digital media. A potential solution to the software component of the digital divide is the use of open source software and free online services. Implementing these solutions can play a part in narrowing the digital divide and producing better informed citizens more capable of participating in the modern electoral process.
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Recent national elections in the United States have shown that new media, the use of Internet resources, is playing a critical role in the campaigns and elections of government officials. Personal networking technologies, Web 2.0, and the online presence of many people from all walks of life are influencing the modern electoral process. This places a new, and critical, importance on information literacy and information access.

In addition to electoral activities, citizens’ interaction with government at all levels is becoming more dependent on technology access. Across the United States and the world governments are moving to online electronic services for basic service provision in order to both save money and provide easier, faster access to citizens. While this move is making services easier to access online it may also make those same services more difficult to access via traditional means like the telephone or face to face communication in an office.

The problem connected to this ever-growing online presence of government officials and government services is that not everyone has access to the technology. The difference between technology haves and technology have-nots in society is generally referred to as the digital divide. While there are many different perspectives on the cause of the divide, and many different potential solutions for solving the different problems, this chapter is focused on the technical component of the digital divide and how to solve the problem of individuals not being able to afford software and other services to be active participants in new media.

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