AUSTIN, Texas—The GTE Foundation has provided a $50,000 gift to launch a new program at The University of Texas at Austin to help disenfranchised communities grappling with being “left behind” in the Internet era.
The Digital Divide and Information Literacy program will train rurally based secondary school teachers, librarians and community members to evaluate as well as design digital information resources. It will be headed by Dr. Sharon Strover, UT Austin College of Communication, and Dr. Philip Doty, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, and will be a new program area within the UT Telecommunications and Information Policy Institute.
Strover argues that critical thinking skills are essential for individuals’ success in school, at work and as citizens.
“Those skills are essential to building an online environment today, and we need to construct informational tools and materials that are responsive to more than consumer needs,” she said.
Focused initially on two rural Texas communities, the project team plans to work with libraries and other community centers in training people to use the Internet and to construct the Internet-based resources their communities need.
The phrase “Digital Divide” has been used in several reports to telegraph the disenfranchisement experienced by certain communities as information resources grow away from them. The program addresses information literacy, or how to evaluate the resources that online services typically present.
“We are becoming increasingly aware that certain constituencies lack online information relevant to their life circumstances,” said Doty. “The growth in Web pages and online services has focused increasingly on commercial services, and much of the medium’s potential for making usable information available to populations including minority groups, the poor and working class, youth and older people has not been realized.”
For additional information, contact Strover at (512) 471-6667.