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Morino Institute From Access to Outcomes: Digital Divide Report and Dialogue
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Making the Case for Technology Within the Community




Nov 27, 2000


Laura Breeden


[Note: These comments are personal and do not reflect the position of Ms. Breeden's employers or funders.]

Major comments:

1) The ideas and recommendations [in the draft report] are basically sound. We should definitely move from a focus on access to a focus on outcomes! I have some problems with the language (I think "community infrastructure" is awkward for what is being conveyed, for example) but those things can be sorted out later, if others have a similar reaction. The ideas about capacity building and investing in strong community institutions are good.

2) The two major content weaknesses I see are: first, on page 3, item 6, where no reason is given about why it's important to bring advanced technology into homes in low income areas, and that recommendation is followed immediately by a summary sentence about the overall approach that should be in a separate paragraph. This recommendation feels like an "add on" and is weak compared to the others. Secondly, in the "Catalytic Change" section beginning on page 8, it's not clear how the Leadership Academy (no.2) is really different from the Learning Community (no. 5). By the way, SEAChange is planning to do something very much along the lines of No. 5.

3) Overall, as someone who has been laboring in this particular vineyard for close to a decade, I feel impelled to say that some of us HAVE been thinking about outcomes for a long time. It is a little annoying to be told that this is a new insight. But I assume that the audience for this piece will be largely new to this idea? One caution is that for those who oppose the e-rate or other large scale federal programs, the notion that existing DD efforts are not outcomes-based just adds fuel to the fire. And given tonight's election results, who knows?

4) I'm troubled by the business about "magical" change in industry and "high-impact breakthroughs". I think that in fact the change is more incremental, and that some of the most powerful change in poor neighborhoods occurs because low income people (whether adults or young people) are motivated by computer use to do things that they have not done before, or done successfully. In the nonprofit sector, the breakthrough areas I see (if any) are advocacy, information sharing, research, and "client motivation"... getting people interested in learning again, or in learning new skills. Some of the potential breakthrough areas, such as case management or reporting to funders, are much harder to tackle, because the design and maintenance of software systems to support them are very complex and difficult. This is a longer conversation, so let me know if you want to discuss it.


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