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Defining the Digital Divide From Below: Local Initiatives in Austin, TX
Unformatted Document Text:  6 and initiatives have been providing a number of resources and services to fit the specific needs of the communities in which they reside. Most offer free or inexpensive access for using computers and/or the Internet and some provide training. Despite this diversity of policies and programs, there is not a clear policy or academic research consensus on how to define the digital divide, whether it is an issue requiring policy intervention, and, if so, exactly how to intervene. Warschauer (2003) questions whether defining these kinds of inequities and social fractures as a digital divide is useful. Many now prefer to focus on approaches to digital inclusion. Others conclude that the problem is largely solved (Compaine, 2001). One of the focuses of this study is to see how these divides have been defined in practice in field projects in Austin, to see how those practices have succeeded, and to see how these practical definitions have evolved as a result. The policy climate has shifted decisively at both the Federal level and at the state level in Texas. The Bush administration has reduced some programs, although Congress has insisted on maintaining reduced levels of funding for some programs. The Texas TIF program was just cancelled in 2003, although the funding will still be collected for some time and will probably be applied to other projects to be determined by the state of Texas. However, this review of programs in Austin will show that some programs have built histories of success in supplying access and services, although their sustainability without government funding seems to be likely to be difficult in the near future. This study will argue that those digital divide programs that began with local or grassroots movements are better situated to survive the coming reductions in funding than a number of programs that began essentially in response to government funding

Authors: Cunningham, Carolyn., Custard, Holly. and Straubhaar, Joseph.
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and initiatives have been providing a number of resources and services to fit the specific
needs of the communities in which they reside. Most offer free or inexpensive access for
using computers and/or the Internet and some provide training.
Despite this diversity of policies and programs, there is not a clear policy or
academic research consensus on how to define the digital divide, whether it is an issue
requiring policy intervention, and, if so, exactly how to intervene. Warschauer (2003)
questions whether defining these kinds of inequities and social fractures as a digital
divide is useful. Many now prefer to focus on approaches to digital inclusion. Others
conclude that the problem is largely solved (Compaine, 2001). One of the focuses of this
study is to see how these divides have been defined in practice in field projects in Austin,
to see how those practices have succeeded, and to see how these practical definitions
have evolved as a result.
The policy climate has shifted decisively at both the Federal level and at the state
level in Texas. The Bush administration has reduced some programs, although Congress
has insisted on maintaining reduced levels of funding for some programs. The Texas TIF
program was just cancelled in 2003, although the funding will still be collected for some
time and will probably be applied to other projects to be determined by the state of Texas.
However, this review of programs in Austin will show that some programs have built
histories of success in supplying access and services, although their sustainability without
government funding seems to be likely to be difficult in the near future.
This study will argue that those digital divide programs that began with local or
grassroots movements are better situated to survive the coming reductions in funding than
a number of programs that began essentially in response to government funding


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