The definition of digital division is the cultural division caused by limited access to computers and internet in today’s society. This division most often affects the people in the low income bracket who cannot afford to purchase a computer or internet access and the elderly, who have not grown up using computers. Many elderly are often intimidated by the new technological advancements and therefore avoid the new computer and internet era completely. Statistics show that only 40% of people in Canada have access to the computer, however computer and internet access and literacy have become so vital in most parts of the world. The internet access has been equated similarly to basic human rights. Without this access, people’s standard of living is greatly diminished and their possibilities at job opportunities, education, freedom of expression, and access to information are greatly limited.
Community based organizations have been implemented to bridge the digital gap. Community Access Program (CAP) and Free Geek are examples of such organizations.
The CAP program provides computer and internet access to those in need and encourages online literacy and learning. Free Geek is a volunteer based organization. This program allows volunteers to gain knowledge about the internal workings of computers and the organization, itself, sells computers and computer parts for prices below retail value.
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The past few classes of CultureNet have really got me thinking. Learning about the Community Access Program, reading the conclusion of the Slack and Wise Primer, media discussions in Communications 112 and hearing Dr. Sharla Sava’s talk about surveillance have totally altered the way I look at society and our relationship with technology. As a person who enjoys a good science fiction novel, I definitely feel like I am living in one now. It feels kind of surreal.
The idea of access to technology, specifically the internet, has come up several times over the term in a couple of my classes. I wrote a paper about it in Communications; I have to admit doubts originally that internet access was something that people “needed” to have access to, at least not like food, shelter, clothing and health care. But when prompted by the ideas from Postman that there “winners and losers” every time a technology was introduced, I actually changed my perspective. I thought back to my own experiences when I was working for Provincial Health and was taking free computer classes offered by the government. At the time the kitchen and laundry services were getting outsourced, and my class was filled with people desperate to gain computer knowledge before being laid off. Many of the people didn’t know how to turn the computer on. I was frustrated. Then I realized that these people were going to be completely screwed trying to find another job. They had many barriers, such as language, education and (primarily) financial. It made me feel anxious and my stomach hurt.
The talk Dr. Sharla Sava gave on surveillance was spectacular. It always blows my mind when something so familiar to me is disseminated, analyzed and given language. Every time I open my Facebook it now makes me laugh, awkwardly. The whole act is so weird, like I am marketing myself and making advertisements about my life (as if any of it is interesting and glamorous). Learning about media in Communications has added to the whole absurdity of it. I always felt like my punk rock sensibilities would keep me safe from becoming a sell out poser, but I am just kidding myself.
The last few chapters of the Slack and Wise Primer really made me think about the effects of technology on people. I happened to be reading about biofuels in Time Magazine, which is a great example of what Slack and Wise are touching on. People want “clean” alternative energy, but the impact that has on farmers and therefore food costs has the potential to cause global crisis. Now when I think about it I think the issue is so skewed; we focus so much on how we can continue to live the same way and not make any changes in our comfortable lives while waiting for some scientist to come up with a new technology that allows us to do so in an economically viable way that will also assuage our minor guilt. The solution to the oil situation is don’t drive your car so much, not biofuels. When time says biofuels are a scam I have to think about Postman’s winners and losers. But doesn’t every technology have positive and negative effects, or unintended effects or revenge effects? I guess it s easier to pick on the new guy on the block than the older guys who are established.
Overall I think that the four months I have spent in CultureNet have been the most interesting I have had in a while. I am very glad I quit my cubicle job to participate in this program; it is so great to be gaining the ability to clearly discuss these issues that I had previously identified but was unable to analyze or vocalize effectively. I drive my friends nuts with my constant enthusiastic media and technology analysis. It really is fascinating though; I highly recommend it.
CAP YI is an acronym for Community Access ProgramYouth Initiative. A program that takes 50 young adults, every year, between the ages of fifteen and thirty and hires them for a minimum of four months to work as a part of the CAPprogram at one of the many CAP sites. The CAP sites are dedicated to bridging the gap of the digital divide and making sure that computer and internet access is available to all, also providing the knowledge and help needed. The Youth Initiative is funded by Human Resources and Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy and aims to provide employment opportunities and work experience essential to obtaining a good job in today’s technological market. Along with helping themselves, the young adults have a chance to help the community and learn hands on about computers and the internet that drives the economy. There are two components of the Youth Initiative that young adults may be hired for. The first is Summer Work Experience, where young adults must be in school before applying for the internship and be planning to return full-time after the internship. The Second is Career Focus where a high school graduation diploma is a must, along with some form of post-secondary education. The young adults from both programs will be involved in activities such as: helping and teaching others about computers and their applications such as the internet, developing and modifying websites for CAP and promoting CAP and the Youth Initiative.
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CAP is an acronym for what is known as the Community Access Program, a program committed to helping people of all ages get access and knowledge about computers and their applications, especially the internet. CAP offers what are known as CAP sites, which for the most part are run by volunteers, in which people of all ages and backgrounds can get free help with computers. CAP not only helps to bridge the divide in the digital gap but goes further than that and is about people, community and people helping each other and providing equal opportunities for all.
CAP was developed by Industry Canada and has been funded by the government since it started in 1994; however, it’s been a struggle to get by on an ever-decreasing budget from the government. Each consecutive year, the government pulls more money out of the program and spends it elsewhere. In 2005, CAP had a budget of twenty-five million dollars, however, it took a steep hit when only given eight-point-eight million in 2006, odd since the government speaks so highly of the program and their success. However, is the decrease in government funding going to be the end for this ever-important program in this new technological age? Or is decreased government funding not so bad after all?
To survive hard times all you need is support, and that is exactly what CAP has, support from its community members and even more from its volunteers; people who are committed to the program and won’t go down without a fight. There are unlimited places to receive funding other than the government, and definitely enough funding to keep this program alive. Reaching out to the community would not only be beneficial in gaining funding but also is a way to speak about the program to some that may need it but haven’t heard about it before. Furthermore, with less government funding, comes less rules and the less say the government has in running the program, allowing volunteers and coordinators to expand and allow themselves to run the program the way that they and their community see fit, as communities differ so should the CAP. It would almost be nice to see decreased funding from the government and more from the community, making it more a community project where more people can get involved and get reciprocation with the program. I could even see them doing a community day as a fundraiser to bridge the digital divide, such as car-free days down on Commercial Drive, not only is it a way to have fun with the program but to also get recognition and funding for the program.
CAP is an amazing program that has the ability to use technology to bring communities together to help one another in a time when knowing the technology is everything.
Why is public access to the internet important?
Government support for public access sites? Yes? No?
These are some of the questions that we will be considering at this Friday’s CNET Seminar when Kalia from CAP (Community Access Program) comes to speak to us. The presentation and discussion take place between 11:30am to 12:30pm in Birch 125 directly across from the Capilano College Bookstore on Friday, March 7th.
For more information on the Vancouver Community Network (VCN) and Community Access Program (CAP), check out these websites:
Event open to Capilano College students, faculty and staff.
For more information contact Aurelea Mahood, CultureNet Convener, at firstname.lastname@example.org