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.


Brendan Shaughnessy said...

1) Provide a summary:

Building a bridge: Learning from Seattle takes a look at the city of Seattle, Washington and the city's efforts to close the digital divide. The authors identify Seattle as a city on the forefront of the technology age. Seattle is known as a "High tech" community and a study found that about 10% of all jobs in the Seattle area are in the high-tech sector (200). This is fueled by the presence of many high-tech firms in the Seattle area, including Microsoft.

Even though Seattle is known as a high-technology city, they still face a significant digital divide. A survey of the city helped to define the existing divide. Results showed that groups that don't have online access "tend to be older, low-income, low education, and African American or Latino" (201) These are results similar to those we've seen when looking at other communities and also the Digital divide across the board.

What sets the city of Seattle apart from so many other cities is it's approach to closing the digital divide. Seattle was one of the first cities to recognize the existence of the digital divide. In 1995 the city created the Citizens Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board or CCTAB to address the issue. the Purpose of the group was is to make recommendations to the Mayor and City Council relating to technologies. Their goal was to promote accessible technology within the city.(202)

A year later, the city established a fund called the Citizens Literacy and Access fund to further address the digital divide. The fund would match contributions from community groups that were specifically focused on Literacy and/or technology. Further, the fund would help to establish CTC's within the city and further improve access for it's residents.

Seattle was also the first city to appoint a community technology planner. The purpose of this position is to coordinate efforts and communication between many different community groups with a common goal of increasing access. (207)

The article also speaks of another Seattle based group that is a significant player in bridgeing the divide. The Neighborhood Networks Consortium or NNC is an "alliance of public and private groups that seeks to establish, maintain and support CTCs in affordable housing developments: (210) The group works to form alliances between community business and CTC's to further promote internet access.

The article concluded the Seattle's continued success in promoting technology stem largely from the city's approach to the issue. The city effectively promotes community groups and community awareness to it's citizens and also effectively integrates it's technological concerns into the overall agenda's of the city.

eschield said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eschield said...

Key Terms are...

"High-tech"=areas of strong concentration of software, biotechnology, and aerospace industries.
-example of a high-tech firm is Microsoft

PAN=Public Access Network. It serves as an electronic cityhall, allowing Seattle citizens to obtain city information and services electronically and to communicate with city officials.

CTTAB=Citizen's Telecommunications and Technology Advisory board. It is in charge of making recommendations to the mayor and city council on issues of community-wide interest relating to telecommunications and technology.

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.

CLC=computer learning centers

NPower= a leading IT technical assistance provider to nonprofit organizations in Seattle and the Puget Sound. Provides consultations on technology assessments and planning, technology training classes, matches between nonprofits and volunteers, and online and print libraries of technology resources.

lnowakowski said...

John Wiley seems to think that Seattle is doing a good job dealing with the digital divide. One could argue however, that this is derived solely from the economic base of the city. Just as Las Vegas survives off of tourism, Seattle survives off of computers. This puts seattle in an unusual position. Although the rate of people owning and knowing how to use computers is high in Seattle, this actually puts those who dont have computers at an even bigger disadvantage. Unfortunately, those on the wrong side of the divide in Seattle follow the same stereotypes we see all over (poor, old, minority). One attempt to narrow the divide is the Technology Matching Fund. This "matches" any grants for projects that are intended to close the digital divide. A good idea, however, here is a list of groups who are ineligible to participate in the program. (obtained from

* Individuals
* Single businesses
* Religious organizations
* Governmental agencies
* Political groups
* District councils
* Universities
* Public schools
* Hospitals
* City departments
* Newspapers
* State, local and national foundations
* Fraternal organizations
* Organizations not located in or serving Seattle residents

I honestly can not think of any group that is not mentioned there. Needless to say, access to this program is very limited. The program, as of 2009, sets an annual budget of $250,000.

It seems that Wiley feels that the best way to address the digital divide is from the top down. It should be up to the government and other wealthy, computer literate people to decide what is best for the rest. It is easy to critique that argument. This top down strategy never stops and asks the people what they want. Maybe instead of having more community computer facilities, people would rather have the city use funds to make personal computers cheaper to purchase. These are just a few of the potential problems with what Seattle is doing. However, they need to be supported for trying harder than most cities.

Chris Stern said...

4) Compare this article to past articles:

One interesting comparison could be drawn between the articles that were read for week 12, concerning the different government policy strategies.

Building the Bridge claims that "Seattle is an important example because public sector and grassroots initiatives have both been strong and complementary." (199) The best example of this from the article is the Citizen's Telecommunications and Technology Advisory Board (CTTAB). The board uses a city fund to help establish access to IT. The important part of this is that the CTTAB first makes sure that the projects it supports will be effective.

Seattle's strategy seems to take the two aspects that were contradicting each other from the week 12 readings. First, as in the Sandvig article (which is apparently not going to be on the final) the board makes sure there is a problem to be addressed before creating sweeping policy decisions that miss the target. Seattle takes the grassroots ideals from the Bishop article, but allows them to receive government funding, so they can make an even greater impact. Finally, there is definitely not a "mission accomplished" view of the digital divide in Seattle. The Jager article warns of the digital inclusion view of the digital divide, where the government looks at all those with IT access as an accomplishment, leaving those without to rot. Seattle continues to battle the digital divide with their array of government and grassroots plans.

Post a Comment