Here are two summaries I wrote of some interesting research recently released, both of which were published in this week’s Dispatch from the Progressive States Network. Hope you find them interesting!
Envisioning an Internet Center for Homeless Individuals: One Group’s Quest to Reduce the Digital Divide – This report from the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs details the needs and challenges of creating an Internet access and education center run by and for homeless and low-income populations. Through interviews with homeless individuals in the Twin Cities area and a survey of existing Internet access points, the report found that most of these individuals access the web through public libraries and many are lacking even the most basic digital literacy skills. Creating a convenient, safe welcoming environment as well as targeted education is key to helping the homeless stay connected with the world, become civically engaged, and learn how to find work, housing, and other resources online.
Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study 2010-2011 – Continuing an ongoing evaluation of Internet connectivity in public libraries that began in 1994, the American Library Association found that demand for Internet services in libraries is increasing exponentially. Although 99.3% of public libraries provide free public Internet access and 87% provide technology education as well, 76% are short on computers to meet demand and 45% complained of slow connection speeds, citing costs, space, and insufficient infrastructure as major obstacles. Due to budget cuts and the slowed economy, more and more libraries decreased their open hours, especially in urban areas, and most expect to further cut services. Even so, libraries are still able to perform what they consider one of their most important functions by offering access to job databases, civil service exam resources, and assistance with job applications. Next year’s report is expected to show improvements as a result of the $7.2 billion in ARRA funding awarded in 2010.