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June 17, 2005

A Billion Internet Users -- Civic Engagement and Information Poverty

The telephone took close to 75 years to reach 50 million users worldwide, and television took 13 years. It took the internet only 4 years to reach the same plateau and now in its 13th year of popular existence, the Net's geometric growth now surpasses 1 billion Netizens.

According to US Census Data, network access has doubled since 1998 and now more than half of America's inner cities and nearly 60% of all Americans are wired to the Net. It took 45 years for 50% household adoption of telephones and nearly 20 years for televisions to reach half of American households. More than half our nation's libraries have broadband access and over 98% have some form of internet access. Indeed, the number one program at public libraries across America is Net access (more than book and film discussions, cultural performances, recreational activities, parenting or financial management information).

Cross nationally; while there is a high correlation between the level of economic development and Net use, countries like Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Estonia, India, South Korea and Taiwan all have well deserved reputations for deliberate national policies for broadband. The result for these countries and a handful of others is a cluster of emerging digital lions of the 21st century with greater numbers of netizens proportionate to their economic development.

What's the secret?

Who are the rising lions of netizenship in the US?

It may be slightly counter intuitive but in the US the size of the State's economy is not a good predictor of netizenship (r=.3). Interestingly enough, the strongest predictor of netizenship was the percentage of the state population with a post-graduate degree (ie. BA or higher)(r.4). In other words, States that invest and produce more college graduates (as a percentage of the total population) are those most likely to have connected citizens and in turn be poised to be the rising lions of the digital economy and society of the 21st century.

This week, Cleveland hosts a national gathering of community technology centers. Cleveland welcomes community technologists from around the country. When we look for coalitions to work together to make a difference in our communities sometimes the obvious pieces do not fall into place.

There is a long standing consensus that civic engagement is directly proportionate to the level of education of the citzenry along with intervening variables like the number of civic action groups, news outlets/sources, and political organizations.

Community technologists across the country and the university community need to be stronger allies in pursuit of a common goal. Case Western Reserve University is pleased to be able to host some of the activities of the CTC in collaboration with OneCleveland.

The more educated our communities the better positioned they are to taking ownership of their own futures. Let's continue to find ways of working together.

Posted by lsg8 at June 17, 2005 11:10 AM and tagged Bytes 

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