Thursday, September 23, 2004

How To Bridge The Digital Divide





We have a problem to solve. Though we are clearly in the information age, we are still using industrial age thinking in solving our problems. For example, all this talk about jobs. NAFTA was passed and here in the United States, jobs are fewer and harder to find. However, in the Information Age, one can earn a living at home on line. All that is needed is a computer and the skills to complete the task. Regarding our health crisis, making more information on how to take care of oneself available in the style of Web MD, pressure could be reduced off the health care system, making available more resources to folks who really need it. Computers are really the keys out of Babylon where we can once again all speak the same language, web.

Albert Einstein explained it best in his 1938 "Message For Posterity." Our technology has exceeded our humanity, and now is the time to create balance. Everyone who wants to be computerized, should have a right to computerization.

Make no mistake about it. Second hand information in the information age is truly the new slavery. If you have to go to another for your daily data, by the time you get it, if you get it, it’s old news. Talk about second-class status.
Uncensored web access means no country can determine that their people cannot know the truth. Freedom of thought is the bounty for getting whoever wants to be on the information super highway on the road.

With computers and other forms of technology, we have in our hands the ability to create peace on earth as a result of better managing the world's to the hungry, clean water to the thirsty, housing for the homeless.

Q and A

Who is not on line yet?
The vast majority of the world's population is not yet computerized. Our greatest treasure may be found in the realm of the billions of unread voices yet to be on the web.

What is the digital divide?
The digital divide is the space in our society between the computerized and the non-computerized. The distance between the technology haves and have nots? We live in a world of technology haves and have-nots. Like A Tale Of Two Cities, failure to address the issues can result in creating a future resembling The Time Machine.
The digital divide is dangerous, yet can be made safe if we all just work together to build a bridge to cyber freedom.

When does the bridge need to be built?

Where to begin?
In our own communities, wherever we are. Those of us with the skills and the technology need to openly share information with those who don't have access. Begin with making sure those around you are computer literate and expand from there, i.e. through your place of worship, community centers, recreational groups (i.e. Bridge night where the games and cards are made on the computer.)

Why build a bridge to close the digital divide?
You never know where the next great solution is going to come from.

How to bridge the digital divide?

Make sure everyone has computer access and the basic training to use the equipment.

How is that simple?

Make equipment and internet access available in all schools, libraries,
town halls, houses of worship, etc.

Computer companies know the value of creating customers by letting them train on their brands of hardware and software. Stress the sales times, Dr. Kings Birthday Weekend and July 4th weekend, generally the best times to buy equipment.

Set up computer clubs where folks can make contributions into one's technology fund rather than buy a $100 pair of sneakers.

In the information age, access to modern technology i.e. that which gives web access, is a part of civil rights.

We all have a right to be connected.

Since we never know who’s life experience will hold the key to solving the problems of disease, environmental destruction, economic empowerment, or our next really good laugh, we can’t afford to leave any soul behind who wants to participate in the Information Age Evolution.

The way to bridge the digital divide is to do something about it. When the problem is a lack of adequate computerization, the solution is simply to adequately computerize. Web conferencing, computer enriched literacy programs and organizational participation can dramatically help transform the digital divide into opportunities wide. One of the things that amazed me most during my years of training is the number of folks who can't really read. They may be able to sound out a few words, but wherever they went to school failed to teach them how to comprehend the images in front of them. We need to use computers to help folks learn how to read, do math and think.

The solution to the problem of how to bridge the digital divide involves access to both equipment and education. For example, internet access without the confidence and ability to effectively use the technology, is like having a microphone and not know how to turn it on or what to say.

The HOW TO COMPUTE training notes are posted


The evidence is too precise to ignore any more. Maximizing cyber opportunities is critical to the success of any economy. Information on the web is already helping save lives, i.e. various on-line medical tests one can take to determine when it's time to see a doctor.

Many companies only have additional product information on the web. Some days, the best air fare is found the week before a flight on the web. Given modern homeland security issues, checking a product number against the FDA site for re-call information is a good thing.

I have a theory that during WWII enough people chose good over evil so that we were given the power of computers. The Enigma Machine, an early computer, was developed by the Allies and used to break Hitler’s code, thereby turning the tide of the war. The power of our modern Enigma Machines, computers, has changed the tide in many lives in no less a dramatic fashion. Folks are overcoming now.

The oldest referenced structure in the bible is the Tower of Bable. According to Genesis, during the time of Babylon’s ego, language was confounded. With computers and their language translation capabilities, people from all over the world can speak and be understood. A real chance at world peace based on communication.

Computerization is an empowerment tool on many levels, like the joy on the face of a young man in Harlem the first time he communicated with a soul from Japan about a mutual artistic passion. Or the peace of senior Miss. Ruth who was able to communicate with younger members of her family in another state through a computer, which translated into them becoming even closer. Or the accomplishment of a young father building stronger communications bridges with his six-year-old daughter during conversations they would have while together at the computer screen.

With computers, it no longer matters what one learned or did not learn in school. You can learn on line. The information, the commodity of kings, is available to all who know how to use a computer, the Internet and an assortment of educational tools.

As Anthony Robbins says in his book AWAKEN THE GIANT WITHIN…”I can’t overemphasize the power and value of gaining even one, single distinction – a sole piece of information – that can be used to change the course of your life. Information is power when it is acted upon, and one thing is that you never know when you’re going to get it.”

Illiteracy can become an ancient concept. In computer class, the most popular book is the dictionary, as anxious minds search for just the right spelling to get their questions answered.

Adequate computerization provides a way that national testing of school children can work. It gives students access to the same information at the same time. All 14 years of school can be available on the web, with interactive programs that test and teach. Any person who goes through a web-based education should be able to pass the national standards test. This is not difficult if we allow the needs of the students to hold greater weight than the needs of the unions and school officials.

The difference between a computerized and non-computerized life is like the difference between a Mercedes and a mule. Take insurance. Via the web, one can quickly gain access to tools that compare up to the second insurance rates offered by a multitude of companies. Without the web, one usually relies on whatever dated print or phone information is available.

Still, the best way to fight poverty is with a legal income. Anyone can be a salesman with Amazon, Yahoo Classifieds,, and other on-line sales listing. Driving instructions, medical treatments, food information, breaking news, spirituality, sports, humor, art, it’s all there.


We've started with two basic types of cyber clubs. One is to encourage folks to systematically save money for computer purchases like one saves for Christmas season.

The second type is to gather a group of folks together and go computer shopping.

In the mid-90's when conducting ‘computer buying groups’, we had one
Radio Shack in Harlem, close to Columbia University, which had an extremely limited computer selection and programs were minimal. We ended up having to go down town. At the time I felt that they didn't want us down town either.
Access to technology is meaningless until we learn how to use it to empower our lives. The first step to bridge the digital divide though, is access.


Here are C.U.R.E.'s recommendations onhow to bridge the digital divide.
  1. Encourage banks to set up “Cyber Clubs”, much like the old “Christmas Clubs” where people can make deposits into an account for future technology purchases. As an alternative to giving a child a doll or game for a gift, take that money and deposit it into the account. These clubs can make group purchases during July 4th and Dr. King’s Birthday weekends offering additional buying incentives based on volume discount buying. They can also keep people informed of the newest, latest and most effective equipment and programs to purchase. Financial management, i.e. “computer banking” computer user groups can be formed to use the technology to enrich the community.
  2. Provide incentives for community organizations to offer free computer training to their membership. Teach the basics necessary to write letters, get on and use the web, balance a budget or record one’s family tree. Trainers can be available on line with e-mail correspondence.
  3. Encourage business growth. With a computer, whatever one does best, they can do as a business. For example, if someone braids hair, show them how their computer can keep their books, appointments, send out customer mailings, encourage word of mouth, file taxes, etc. Sales development clubs, on the web and off, can also encourage economic growth. These clubs can reach beyond national borders. Also, auto responder book sales and other residual income sites can be established.
  4. Hold more and targeted local, state and national and international “town meetings” on the web with elected and appointed officials answering questions and listening to solutions from constituents. Network ideas with resources and people to accomplish the mission of safe, effective computerization for all who want it.
  5. Provide additional tax and financing incentives to open computer stores, training centers, wherever. It’s not just low-income people who need access and training. We all do. I still can’t believe the many times I heard “I never thought I would ever be able to use a computer,” or “I’ve never even touched a mouse.”
  6. Encourage intelligent, cross cultural-religious-economic-racial-gender, etc. computer use. With computers we see the quality of one’s ideas before we see the body they are in or the lifestyle they live. The opportunity to build bridges is to great to ignore.
  7. Encourage non-violent conflict resolution through a computer. It’s tough to use a computer and a gun at the same time. Also arguments over modems cause less violence.
  8. Promote the joy of computing.
  9. Ask computer companies to stop red-lining inner cities.
Consider reparations for the American people. It was American tax dollars that financed the creation and development of computers. Money that could have gone into family inheritance funds. Yet, this technology was not given freely to the people, but to business interests. The skinny is, since our grand parents, through their tax dollars, helped finance the creation and development of computers, where's our royalty checks? Investors should get a royalty too.


The systems for successfully bridging the digital divide are already in place. Community organizations, one-on-one at home sharing information, economic encouragement and technology already exist to expedite the process. With sponsorship opportunities for computer hardware, software and humanwear, the process can pay for itself via an empowered tax base.

Dr. Martin Luther King was right. In my experience, which began on computers in 1977 at ABC Radio’s WPLJ-FM, the table of brotherhood that Dr. King spoke of in his I HAVE A DREAM speech is a table with a computer on it, and good people around it, using the computer to solve problems and have a good time.

Just like Dr. King was a champion of civil rights, we must all become champions of cyber rights. Government, business, non-profits and individual intervention will not only close the digital divide, but where there was a hole in the ground, new opportunities will be found.

How does one champion cyber rights? If you know how to use a computer, find someone in your life that does not know and teach him or her. If you don’t know how to use a computer, find someone who does and ask them to teach you. Help your organizations and institutions become computerized too. If you can comfortably afford it, buy a computer for a family who doesn't have one. Everyone has something to contribute.

I personally recommend beginning with each individual saying their own prayers for divinely guided computerization.

Regarding the question can anybody learn computers, bring to mind the image of an illiterate person who has already learned how to read the screens and push the buttons on their ATM. We are limited only by our imaginations.
Finally, a message from Miss. Roxanna Dawson. The Railroad had issued a challenge to Harlem that I was actively looking for the first person we could not train how to use a PC. Since the cost of the training is that it be passed onto at least two other people, we could not back up the challenge with money, but thousands of the people came anyway over a four-year period.

Roxanna, at 92 years old, came and said she was that person we could not train. I asked her why and she said because she was blind. I asked her if she was totally blind or legally blind. I had read Huxley’s THE ART OF SEEING so I know the difference. I put Roxanna’s fingers on the home row keys and had her type her name. I made the type big and she jumped back from the screen and yelled, “I can see.” The people in the training room at Harlem's Minisink Townhouse went electric. She turned around and said with a smile of deep pride, “If I can do it, the rest of your have no excuse.”

For her second lesson, I sat her at a computer with a 26-year-old woman and they learned how to use a mouse together. In between practice and laughter, they talked about community issues at a level that’s helped me grow ever since. Healing can be found in networking.

In summary,since the cause of the problem is a lack of adequate computerization,the solution is simple – computerize.

It’s easier than it seems,and when done right,its rewards are tremendous.


Computer Underground Railroad Enterprises, (C.U.R.E. or the Railroad), has trained thousands how to use a computer,in the 1990's in the great community of Harlem, NY and elsewhere in the USA.

The cost of the training is that it be passed onto at least two other people.

The Computer Underground Railroad is just a continuation of the original freedom concept. The real lesson from the original Underground Railroad is that those who have freedom, have a responsibility to share that freedom with those who do not. Those of us who have computer literacy, must share that information with those who do not. Until that’s accomplished, we’re just a slave system in another form. When that is accomplished, everyone is free with the help of ‘a friend of a friend.’ Free to understand, grow, pray and prosper.

Back in the late ‘80’s Harlem’s great community service diva, Mother Clara Hale, told me that there was something going on with computers and I needed to come uptown to help people become computerized. I won’t repeat what she said about Harlem’s politicians on the issues. History speaks for itself. She was right.
For example, Hale House became famous for helping babies and their mothers with AIDS and crack addictions. In the 80’s I was told by Harlem’s leadership that AIDS was not a Black problem (like race should make a difference). They said the best way to handle AIDS was to not talk about it. They’d put another record on the radio, rather than have on Niro Markoff Asistent who’s book WHY I SURVIVE AIDS tells how she healed herself of HIV with ARC (aids related complex).

With computers, it becomes easy to learn what's really going on. In the 80's and 90’s, the politicians did little about the 5 open sewers that surround Harlem, the location of the majority of Manhattan’s bus depots in Harlem, the threat of the Hanta Virus or plague from the large rodent population, inadequate disaster relief programs or information available on how to deal with the dramas on hand.

People need to be able to interact with new technology. When I lived in mid-town Manhattan in the 80’s and early 90’s, I had many computer stores in walking distance of my apartments. When I went to Harlem in ’94, there was not one computer store…a place where you could “kick the tires”, try new technologies, and take a test drive of new software. Ride a train down the tracks.

When I left Harlem in ’98, despite pleas to elected and appointed officials, Harlem still did not have a computer super store. Not even all the time spent on the Empowerment Zone helped. Instead, I was told that most people had no interest in computers or that computers were of the devil. It turns out it wasn't the computers that were of the devil (ooooooooops).

The training notes updated from Word '97 to Word 2000 and 2003, were given to all who came to learn how to compute. I stopped counting at 3,000 people over a four-year period, 1994-1998. Though millions of dollars were raised for education during that time by others, the railroad accomplish what it did on donated loaned computers, training space and programs and a $10,000 grant from Columbia University and City College, plus whatever I earned and the hard work of all who participated. I was not invited to speak.

Happy Computing


oakleyses said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jeri rose said...

The internet was given us by God and Nayer is a modern Moses.

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