February 09, 2012
Barbara Hensley, MARC
Young leaders look at KC's digital divide
On January 5, a group of about 20 students and young nonprofit leaders spent the day at the Mid-America Regional Council to conduct a case study of how the Google Fiber project can bridge the digital divide in Kansas City. The case study was part of the Alliance Management Leadership Institute, a week-long educational symposium held in Kansas City each year by the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The Alliance, formerly known as American Humanics, Inc., helps prepare young people for careers in the nonprofit world. The symposium gives young nonprofit professionals the opportunity to delve into an issue facing the community and offer recommendations.
After a brief overview of the Google Fiber project, the students spent the day discussing ways to promote digital inclusion. At the end of the day, they presented key issues for the Mayor’s Bistate Innovations Team and community leaders to consider:
- When working with people who don’t have access to technology, trust issues must be overcome. Don’t assume acceptance of new technologies just because they are available.
- Young people may be key to breaking down barriers. Help young people from key neighborhoods master the technology, and then help them engage their communities.
- There is a lot of uncertainty about high speed fiber versus wireless. Mobile phones have heavily penetrated low-income communities, and technologies that bypass wireless may create another kind of digital divide.
- Community-based institutions can be key to success by hosting demonstrations, providing education and information, and overcoming concerns.
David Warm, MARC’s executive director, shared the students’ ideas with the Mayors’ Bistate Innovations Team at its January meeting.