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Morino Institute From Access to Outcomes: Digital Divide Report and Dialogue
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Promoting Economic Development




Feb 7, 2001


Bob Templin

Moving Beyond IT Training: Facilitating Business Development & Inverting the Infrastructure
Moving further beyond high tech job skills training, other strategic applications of technology exist that creatively use IT to promote economic opportunity and development. The first set of these strategies focuses on facilitating business development in low-income communities through applications of technology that:


  • Promote collaboration in low-income communities between small businesses to compete for work they may not be able to perform independently such as in the creation of business co-ops: Are there specific examples of small manufacturing shops working together on larger jobs? Or caterers/food service businesses that work together to bid large institutional contracts? Any other examples the support this strategy?
  • Support indigenous business development that focuses upon basic, local community needs for goods and services (child care, transportation services, etc.) -- perhaps even creating a bartering system.
  • Nurtures micro-enterprise development and entrepreneurship (such as the Enterprise Center in East Philadelphia that uses technology to virtually incubate startups owned by low-income community-based entrepreneurs); stimulates initiation of certain types of businesses (such as NFTE small business awards which assists in maintaining aquatic tanks); and creates a working network to assist small business marketing efforts that could not otherwise be afforded.

A second set of strategies focuses on using technology to invert -- or reverse -- the infrastructure to bring economic opportunities directly into low-income communities:


  • Bring small business development services, financial services, business mentoring, and entrepreneurship support services resources via the network.
  • Facilitate the delivery of employment services to help squeeze inefficiencies out of the market -- such as job postings, including hourly or day jobs.
  • Bring actual jobs into low-income communities such as Dyncorp's work with the US Postal Service where workers route mail via video camera from inner city locations. Telemarketing and customer service centers; equipment service shops and device maintenance facilities can function as well in low-income communities as in any suburbs, provided the skill sets are available. Public policy incentives are needed to attract employers to low-income communities to demonstrate that work can be located where the labor is without loss of productivity or increased costs, while proving overall higher efficiencies.

Are there other business and economic development strategies that can harness the power of technology to create jobs and economic opportunities for those living in low-income communities? Are there specific examples you can think of where any of the above ideas have been demonstrated successfully?

Final section coming up:

  • Using applications of technology through trusted agents and community-based organizations
  • It's not always about technology

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