Monday, September 29, 2003

Callahan's 20/20 Digital Vision

Hats off once again to Bill Callahan, who's always there to patiently remind us that the power of the web and related technologies isn't only important for suburban yuppies, buppies and the like. If his decades of uniquely focused community organizing is any guide (and it is), his newly launched Digital Vision blog will instantly become the focal point and civic watering hole in this community for a rousing (and much-needed) conversation about issues relating to the digital divide. That virtual real estate will also make it easier to merge and marshall some resources and ideas from other similarly inclined groups and their social entrepreneur leaders: people such as Dan Hanson and his heroic Computers Assisting People, John Zitzner and the splendid ECityCleveland (which is already nicely connected with YoCleveland, a fascinating and well-funded federal effort to prepare inner-city kids for the future), Jim Cookinham and ever-stalwart NEOSA and even Consumer Credit Counseling's Jay Seaton (a veteran of everything from TV journalism to banking, but always with a social thread of public-service activism) who oversees an interesting public-education initiative called Cleveland Saves. Here's one possible way to kick off a group conversation among these and other interested parties: invite the authors of a new book on the digital divide for a chat and perhaps a book-signing. Three professors from Kent State University have just written a book, Virtual Inequality--Beyond the Digital Divide, which finds (based upon 1,800 surveys in low-wealth areas around the country), contrary to other reports, that America's digital divide is actually growing wider not narrower. It's being published this month by Georgetown University Press, and has received wide attention in the minority academic community even before it's available. In July, the journal Black Issues in Higher Education noted that the book "presents the digital divide in its human dimensions and recommends a set of practical and common sense policy strategies." Anyway, thanks again, Bill, for doggedly staying in focus.


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