D.C.'s Digital Divide

D.C.'s Digital Divide

Credit: Flickr user freefotouk. Some rights reserved.

We heard a lot about "shovel-ready" projects that the federal government funded out of the 2009 stimulus bill, but in D.C., the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) is starting a program with stimulus money that could be called "keyboard-ready." A 2009 study by the OCTO found that the digital divide runs very deep in the city - 90% of residents in Northwest D.C. have high-speed internet access in their homes, but in Southeast, that figure falls to just 36% - 40%.

Credit: Flickr user freefotouk. Some rights reserved.

We heard a lot about "shovel-ready" projects that the federal government funded out of the 2009 stimulus bill, but in D.C., the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) is starting a program with stimulus money that could be called "keyboard-ready." A 2009 study by the OCTO found that the digital divide runs very deep in the city - 90% of residents in Northwest D.C. have high-speed internet access in their homes, but in Southeast, that figure falls to just 36% - 40%.

OCTO Chief Technology Officer Bryan Sivak will be here tomorrow chatting with guest host Brendan Greeley about a new Internet and computer skills education program that the District received $4.2 million from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to implement over the next several years. The OCTO hopes to reach 3,400 residents through the program, titled DC Broadband Education, Training and Adoption (DC-BETA). It'll involve placing new computers in public spaces like libraries and community college campuses in low-income areas to target residents who have not previously had great opportunity to use these tools. After completing a 6-month training program, residents will be given a free computer to take home, as well as 6 free months of Internet access and support.

Sivak and OCTO officials will be curious to see whether the training program, free computer and 6 free months of Internet access will incite many residents to continue to pay for the access themselves after the free period expires. They'll be looking into what other factors besides economic situation discourages people from using computers in the home.

Do you have questions for Mr. Sivak or comments about how D.C.'s digital divide has affected you?

The Kojo Nnamdi Show is produced by member-supported WAMU 88.5 in Washington DC.