Archive for April, 2008

People would use the Internet more if they could afford it

Apr 14 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

A recent paper and survey from researchers at Cornell and the University of Toronto puts some interesting data on the digital divide issue. Through a survey of more than 18,000 Americans, the researchers found that people on the lower end of the income spectrum spend more time on the Internet. Graphing the data reveals and interesting correlation.


The researchers give a few possible explanations for the findings. That for people in lower income groups the use of the Internet was more valuable than other activities, the Internet has more value for these groups, these groups had more time to spend on the Internet, or these groups see more value in using the Internet.

This compelling data should support the argument for those pushing governments to provide more funding to connect low income people, and in fact the authors of the paper suggest this:

The results show that predicted usage among low-income individuals would be high, even higher than their [higher income] counterparts … In particular, these findings suggest that a subsidy for internet use would not be wasted. Individuals who have not yet adopted (and who are primarily low-income) would use the internet intensely if given access.

The data collected by the study is a few years old, from 2001, but the researchers affirm that their inferences from the data are still valid, saying the same pricing structures exist, keeping the same lower income groups out.

found via PhysOrg

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Next generation Internet: WSJ takes a look

Apr 13 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

The Wall Street Journal has a good article up about next generation high-speed Internet services in the United States. Comcast recently started upgrading their infrastructure with a new version of cable internet technology called DOCSIS 3, which is now being offered to Minnesotians. The upgrade will let Comcast offer download speeds of 150Mbps, compared 5Mbps for basic service.

Today a speed increase of 3000 percent might seem like an overkill, but just like the move from dial-up to broadband made audio and video possible, these new super-fast connections will make a boatload of new services possible.

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Broadband by the bit

Apr 13 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

In the past few months high-speed Internet service providers have begun to offer faster plans that charge by the gigabyte. The plans give you a preset limit of how much data you can download every month, and if you go over, you get hit with fees.

There is one service provider in Oregon is offering these plans now. The customer gets a fast download speed of 16Mbps which is around 3 times the speed of most basic cable Internet connections. But if you download more that 50Gb of webpages, videos, music or etc., you get slapped with overage fees. New Internet services like YouTube and movie download services from iTunes or Netflix will consume these allowances pretty quick.

Time-Warner, one of the largest cable Internet providers, announced that they would trial these programs in Texas back in January.

Looks like we’ve come full circle from the dial-up days of monthly minute limits. I’m pretty sure customers didn’t like having to watch the clock before, and I’m sure they’ll really enjoy trying to figure out how much data they’ve used with these new plans.

via Gizmodo
The service provider in Oregon – BendBroadband

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Microsoft promotes tech education in Latin America

Apr 10 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

Microsoft is expanding partnerships throughout Latin America and helping to establish programs to provide technology education.The partnerships are focused on providing technology education to at-risk youth as well as people with disabilities.

Microsoft will be partnering with or expanding partnerships in Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Peru and international Latin American organizations.

The Dominican Today article goes through all the partnerships, and there are quite a few. The article doesn’t say how much money Microsoft plans to commit to all the partnerships, but it does say a $4 million dollar fund has been setup for Partnership in Opportunities for Employment through Technology in the Americas, which is an IT skills and job training program.

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Internet access for all in UK? Bollocks.

Apr 08 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

A few years ago, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair proclaimed that there would be “universal internet access for all who want it.” This goal was set for 2005. According to this recent article on, around 35 percent of homes in the UK do not have access to Internet, and the majority of homes are in the lowest income bracket.

U.S. President George Bush made a similar statement in 2004. Bush set the bar a little higher, promising universal broadband (high-speed) Internet access by 2007. But that hasn’t happened yet either.

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Smartphone program connecting kids facing cuts

Apr 08 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

A North Carolina school district partnered with Qualcomm’s Wireless Reach Initiative and Arlington, Virg., based Digital Millennial Consulting to provide some 9th graders smart-phones with internet access in a pilot program. The K-Nect Program, as it’s called, is an attempt to address three issues at once: Getting at risk kids access to the Internet, educating them on technology use and improving thier math scores.

How to cell phones improve math scores?

Well it looks like the consulting group associated with the project developed some custom software that allows teachers to send the kids math questions, which they can solve by themselves or with help from other classmates through peer-to-peer technology.

However it looks like the program is in trouble. According to an article on an NBC affiliate’s website, NBC17 in Raleigh, the funding is set to run out in June. The director of the project and of the Digital Millenial Consulting group, Shawn Gross, ‘pleaded’ with the state board of education for more funding, which will be matched 100 percent by private sources, according to the article.

And from the article, it looks like the smart phones are popular among the students and might actually be teaching them math.

Now if only I could get my smart phone to stop crashing…

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Elevate Miami

Apr 07 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

Cnet has an post up about the city of Miami’s efforts to provide technology education to residents and small business owners. Elevate Miami is a city-wide program that provides classes and computer access centers for residents. The city works with technology partners like Microsoft Corp. to recycle old PCs, and with telecom providers to provide Internet access in the city parks.

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Divide Resources

Apr 07 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

One the best resources for information on computer and Internet use in the United States is the Pew Internet and American Life Project. They do studies and research on who uses the Internet, how they use the Internet, who doesn’t use the Internet and much more.

Some government run sites that are sources of news: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. is a great source of science and technology related press releases from companies, universities and a myriad of other official sources.

There are a lot of great tech sites out there that report news that applies to digital divide issues. Much of the news that come through these sources (and theres a lot of it) only mildly relates to these issues, but they do have very appropriate news from time to time. Here is a short list:

A lot of digital divide related news is reported through a wide range of global newspapers and blogs, making it difficult to monitor. So Google News is my new best friend. It pulls news articles and blog posts from around the world and makes them searchable. I was able to custom design two rss feeds which I plopped into my Google Reader (which also makes my life easier).

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Not everybody's on the Internet

Apr 07 2008 Published by Ryan under Digital Divisions

The era of global communication is upon us, and the Internet is changing the way people work, find information about their world and talk to friends and family. But many people are left behind because they can’t afford a computer, have no Internet access where they live, or are just plain scared of taking the plunge for the first time.

In the United States, availability of high-speed internet is a big problem. It’s difficult to get a broadband connection in many places. Urban as well as rural areas of the country are lacking the infrastructure. Despite President Bush’s promise to improve access to broadband, about half of americans have broadband in the home. Part of the problem is the lack of data thats collected to monitor the progress of wiring the nation.

Cities across the United States, like Chicago, Philadelphia and Houston, have contemplated or implemented city-wide wireless Internet access as a way to address problems residents have getting or affording it on their own. Often these municipal wireless projects do not work out.

Other advanced nations typically have much better and much cheaper broadband access for their citizens. In Japan, consumers can get connections that are much faster than consumer connections in the United States. Less developed countries are a much different story. Lacking in communication infrastructure and the resources to build them, many residents of poorer countries have no way to get online. Experts are looking to mobile phones to pick up the slack and provide Internet access to people in developing nations.

Organizations like the not-for-profit One Laptop per Child (OLPC) are working on developing low-cost hardware and software for people – and in OLPC’s case, children – in the Third World. Other electronics companies like Intel and mobile phone giant Nokia are working on low cost computers and devices to get people online.

By far the biggest digital divide issue that has to be addressed is access to education. Many people lack the skills to use computers and the Internet, especially those without physical access to computers but also the elderly and many who are afraid or aprehensive of technology. Some money available to help communities provide computer education, but the demand for affordable training is greater than its availability. Training will just become more important as more employers look for computer skills in all of thier employees.

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