Saturday, October 11, 2008

Internet links for poor folks without computers?

Up to now, my most popular blog entry has been the
Conversation Prism by Brian Solis. I now know this because one of my geek/techie co-workers showed me how to get my Google Analytics to work after a frustrating month of getting no data.
But one reader's reaction caused me to do some serious stepping-on-the-brakes:
Thank you for the link. Although I am not part of this original conversation I feel a need to always point out that there is always a divide that we often neglect to acknowledge when it comes to working with our Latino community. Although the model that was presented covers many bases, most if not all the components highlighted by the colorful flower is web or computer based. I would have to say that a great deal of our Spanish speaking community has been left behind or are on the wrong side of the computer/technology divide. Therefore any outreach efforts or opportunities that exist to connect with them are through other sources, including personal one to one community contact - Just some thoughts.

This is so true. For those of us who are interested in the community that happens to be poor and is struggling just to put food on the table and keep a roof overhead, it is somewhat fanciful and impractical to give them information about online resources. Even if there is a computer in the home, dial-up connections (slow and frustrating as they can be) are an added expense that many can't afford. Many education advocates point to the technology divide as the biggest equity chasm these days: any child with a computer and internet access at home has a clear advantage over the one that doesn't.
Nonetheless, there are efforts that some of us are carrying out to directly address this challenge. A couple of years ago I wrote an article about a project in south Texas where we were availing ourselves of the natural connections between Latino students and their families. I'm going to drop in the middle section of the article:

Organizing the Youth Education Tekies
...the participating students decided to form a group to support the ongoing technology connections for their families. Few had computers at home, and even fewer had Internet connections. All of the students involved had ample technology skills and access to computers in school but were not active users of their e-mail addresses because of the lack of access to computers outside of school.
In most cases, they also were the translators for their parents and other adults. Historically, in the large migrant stream from south Texas to the many seasonal farm work sites in all parts of the United States, families have had a great dependence on school-age children to be the linguistic go-betweens for families that are Spanish proficient.
With a commitment from IDRA to support their efforts, 15 students gathered on a Saturday and formed a group. After extensive discussion, they agreed upon their vision and goals:
*Help parents to be strong defenders of an excellent education for all children.
*Provide the leadership of youth through technology.
*Be technology bridges for families and strengthen family connections.
*Develop personally through the use of technology.
They asked ARISE, a grassroots organization in the lower Rio Grande Valley, to be their sponsor and organized themselves under the title of Youth Education Tekies.
ARISE is a collaboration of five separately incorporated non-profit organizations each dedicated to building community so that families feel strong from within. It was founded in 1987 by Sister Gerrie Naughton, RSM, and has been co-sponsored by three religious congregations. ARISE focuses on community development programs for persons who are immigrants to the United States, primarily from Mexico.!_Bridging_Language_and_Technology_-_Educational_Leadership_Across_Generations/
So, those of us who are advocates for the Latino community,
or any other community for that matter, who for economic and social reasons does not own or have easy access to computers, technology and the internet, have to continue with the tried and true, face-to-face and personal, communication approaches that all effective community organizers and change agents have always used.
Yet, those of us who have the technology and the tools must accelerate our own understanding and skills in using them. After all, one of the factors that facilitated the pro-immigrant rallies of a few years ago was the connection that so many young Latinos had and availed themselves of on the internet.
Therefore with complete respect and support for real-time, all-bodies-and-souls-present-in-the-same-room communication and organizing to take critical action in support of the betterment of the community, I will continue to find ways to inform advocates about the tools and the possibilities to support leadership, advocacy and change for the better in all communities that are economically disenfranchised and culturally discounted by the institutions and powers-that-be.

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JTech Studios said...

Nice post! Good content as well.

Career4Change said...

Ditto on your thoughts! However, I think the Internet disconnection goes beyond the acquisition power or to those with no computers as some of my clients with Latino Roots have a 'cultural' barrier regarding the use of virtual networking and its advantages. They strongly prefer the face-to-face interaction that is far more common and used in our Latin American Countries. As the economy and the corporations have gone Global they are finding that their face-to-face networking is not up to date and quite ineffective in either establishing new connections or keeping track of the old ones. Part of what I do is to open their minds to new possibilities by re-switching them to a higher level of comfort in managing all the tools that are out there to be successful in achieving their career fullfillment.