Digital Dish: Many still not linked to digital world
From my position as an online editor, I can't help but assume everyone is consuming their news on the Internet. I've always known my parents and other baby boomers weren't exactly "tuned in" to what I do for a living. But I had no idea the drastic statistic until Monday morning.
According to an article in The New York Times via The Seattle Times (http://bit.ly/1eXnGcS), "roughly 20 percent of adults do not use the Internet at home, work, school or by mobile device, a figure essentially unchanged since President Obama took office in 2009 and initiated a $7 billion effort to expand access."
That number -- around 60 million -- is a bit staggering. The article explained how the older generations who don't know how to use a computer are almost immediately dismissed from a job prospect based upon this. People are being shut off from jobs, government services, health care and education due to "persistent digital inequality -- caused by the inability to afford Internet service, disinterest or a lack of computer literacy."
I know there are plenty of ways for people to access the Internet around the Berkshires. There are libraries, but they have only so many computers; there are classes to teach people how to navigate the Internet, but some of those can be costly; and there are free online tutorials, but how do you get those if you're lost in the first place?
A few times a week, especially with the new website rollout, I've fielded phone calls from readers asking how to find certain stories or sections on berkshireeagle.com. And I like to think a good part of my job is to help people understand where to locate articles not only on our website, but elsewhere online.
I've been helping my parents since the first grade with how the computers and the DVD players work. My mom used to constantly call me asking how to turn the DVD player on so she could watch a movie. It's always been intuitive for me to log on and go or plug in and go. I'm no hacker or computer bug fixer, but I'm always happy to try to help where I can.
And that's why I write this column: To give some insight into the digital world for those of you who don't exactly embrace it or who are trying to become digital-savvy.
Despite seeing teens and adults alike constantly on their smartphones, leading one to believe we're all connected online somehow, 60 million Americans without access means we still have a ways to go before we can go full digital. I'm not one to get super political, but despite the Obama administration's allocation of $7 billion for broadband expansion and an Internet availability growth to 98 percent of homes from fewer than 90 percent since 2009, communities need to take responsibility for getting everyone up to speed with access.
At the same rate, according to a recent Eagle story (http://bit.ly/YS1NW5), the MassBroadband 123 project is helping the county gain Internet access. We're well on the way in Berkshire County.
But it's becoming increasingly clear that without some sort of digital knowledge, people are going to suffer some sort of loss, big or small as it may be.
Please interrupt my work day with your questions or comments. How often do you read that? But in all honesty, give me a call, Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., at (413) 496-6229. Or write me a letter and send it to Online Editor Laura Lofgren, P.O. Box 1171, Pittsfield, MA 01202.
Laura Lofgren can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find her on Twitter, @BE_laural_.
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