Publication Date: March 15, 2000
NEW YORK, NY—Markle Foundation President Zoë Baird today announced the commitment of nearly one million dollars to efforts aimed at closing the “digital divide” by developing online content and services that can best serve the needs of low-income Americans. A Washington-based children’s advocacy group, The Children’s Partnership, will receive a grant of $300,000 for their initiative, Bridging the Digital Divide: Online Content for Underserved Internet Users, A Project of the Markle Foundation, to educate key sectors on the content needs of low-income communities and to encourage development of applications that can meet them.
The grant was announced in conjunction with the release of The Children’s Partnership’s new study, Online Content for Low-Income and Underserved Americans: The Digital Divide’s New Frontier, a path-breaking, systematic study to analyze the needs of low income Americans and those with language and geographic barriers and to provide a practical roadmap for the private and public sectors to work together to develop content that can improve their lives.
Of Markle’s commitment to tackling this critical component of the digital divide, Zoë Baird said, “There is great potential for the Internet to provide content and services that can solve problems and create opportunities in the lives of low-income and underserved communities. But providing access is not enough. Access to technology is not a gift to low-income people unless it meets their fundamental needs. We need to understand and encourage the creation of useful content if the technology really is to improve people’s lives.” She added, “We’re delighted that The Children’s Partnership has taken this look at the online needs of low-income and underserved communities. And, we are pleased to support their efforts to get this important information into the hands of people who can do something about it. Their findings and work that will follow are a significant contribution to ensuring that this technology reaches its full potential.”
Laurie Lipper, Director of The Children’s Partnership, said, “The Markle Foundation has made an investment in an emerging and, we believe, critical field-the development of online content for underserved Americans. The research is clear: there is not the content needed to benefit more than 50 million Americans who are low-income or limited-literacy, or speak a language other than English. Markle’s ‘early money’ will allow The Children’s Partnership to move swiftly from research to immediate action: To work with the industry, the government, and low-income communities to develop useful and accessible information and applications for the underserved. The Children’s Partnership greatly appreciates the generous support of the Markle Foundation.”
The report finds that language and literacy barriers, and a lack of local and culturally diverse information on the Net, present the greatest limitations for disadvantaged communities. Among the report’s key findings:
- 1 in 5 Americans are at-risk of being excluded from opportunities available on or through the Internet due to low literacy and limited English skills often associated with low-income families
- Lack of access is not the primary reason low-income Americans are not online. Instead, low-income users say they would use the Internet more if there were content that was engaging and useful to them
- Low-income users want more localized information and more information written at lower literacy levels
The Markle grant will support the dissemination of the New Frontier study and fund additional research about the use and value of the Internet to Americans of low income, low literacy and low English language skills. The Children’s Partnership will convene a series of meetings for policy makers and industry leaders to discuss ways of addressing the content problems uncovered by the New Frontier study, such as how to best create search capabilities for low-income communities, how to best use translation technologies, and how to best provide training and technical support in low-income communities.
Markle Foundation works to improve health and national security through the use of information and technology. Markle collaborates with innovators and thought leaders from the public and private sectors whose expertise lies in the areas of information technology, privacy, civil liberties, health, and national security. Learn more about Markle at www.markle.org.
The Children’s Partnership is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose mission it is to put the unique needs of children front and center in a changing economy, culture, and policy world. The work to ensure all children—especially the disadvantaged—have access to the resources they need, and work to involve more Americans in the cause for kids. The Children’s Partnership endeavors to provide information and develop tools that will be useful to a wide range of leaders and advocates for children.
The Partnership undertakes research and policy analysis, publishes reports and multimedia materials, and forges new alliances among parents, policymakers and the private sector to achieve tangible gains for children. The Partnership focuses particular attention on identifying new trends and emerging issues that will affect large numbers of America’s children and on providing early analysis and strategies for action. In this way, it functions as a research and development (R&D) arm for the children’s movement.