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Promoting Economic Development

Post:

11

Date:

Feb 9, 2001

From:

Bob Templin


It's not always about technology
When the focus is on how technology can advance economic opportunities in low-income communities, the temptation is to consider technology as itself being the solution. However, we need to start our search for solutions with the people, the leaders, and the organizations that are living in and serving low-income communities, not with the technology per se. As Josh Senyak & Albert Fong wrote in a recent TechSoup article, "Bridging the Digital Divide: Thinking about community technology":

"As it turns out, the best computer access in the world won't get you into Stanford if you can't read and write. And while thousands of programming positions are available on-line, they'll probably go to somebody else if you don't have the resources to set up your childcare, a decent suit of clothes, and a ride to the interview. Technology really hasn't changed the fundamental rules of the game very much. All the handicaps in the race continue to favor the 'haves.' The real barriers to opportunity-language, education, literacy, poverty, discrimination-are left untouched."

It's the individuals and organizations that people turn to for help with their daily challenges who can best define the community's needs and the ways technology applications can be leveraged around the community's strengths and assets. The first step is in helping these leaders understand how technology works and what its potential is (and isn't) for them and for their communities. Then, working through these trusted agents, appropriate applications of technology can be developed to create economic opportunity. Only then will the real power of technology begin to be harnessed in ways that help create new ground for progress.

Question: Are there specific examples or vignettes we could use to reinforce our position on the use of trusted agents in the community that have led to applications of technology resulting in economic opportunity?

Randal, what has been your experience on this issue, based upon your work in Camfield Estates?

This is the last of the installments: Where I could really use help is in identifying examples where applications of technology in low-income communities have helped people in getting jobs, creating new jobs, or encouraging people to start their own businesses.

Thanks.
Bob

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