Helping Close the Digital Divide for Financially Disadvantaged Seniors

Helping Close the Digital Divide for Financially Disadvantaged Seniors

Al P. Mizell
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-939-7.ch173
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The Internet has become an essential element of all society today. Those who can access the World Wide Web have become active participants in the Information Age. Unfortunately, many individuals throughout the world do not have ready access to the needed technology. Furthermore, they do not have the required knowledge and skills to use the technology and cannot participate actively. As a result, this has created a world of information haves and have-nots. In this chapter, after examining the concept of the digital divide, data is presented that shows that those with low incomes and those who are older have little access to technology and the use of computers. Low-income seniors are especially limited in their opportunities to own a computer, and they seldom have the skills needed to use one for e-mail, search the Internet, and so forth, even if they visit a public library where they could use a computer without any cost. Various approaches being used to help seniors learn how to use computers are described, andthen the chapter focuses on two projects that have proved to be successful in this effort. SeniorNet is a national organization that helps establish learning centers around the country. The approach used at one such center, located at Nova Southeastern University in South Florida, requires seniors to pay for their courses. A second project is known as SeniorComp and is supported by private foundation funds. Ten low-income senior citizens are selected for each group of seniors in this project. They are given a complete Dell computer system, and their tuition is paid to take four of the SeniorNet courses. At the end of the fourth course, ownership of the computer system is turned over to the individual participant. To date, the completion rate has been 100%. The approaches used can serve as models for others to modify and use in their own communities. By adopting a similar approach, the impact of the digital divide can be significantly reduced for those low-income seniors that participate in the project. In this way, this portion of the marginal community can be empowered.

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