“David Wilcox”:http://partnerships.typepad.com/civic/2003/02/about_david_wil.html, consultant on ICT use by the community and voluntary sector, talks about a new review of the literature on community informatics in the UK by veteran UK academics Barry Loader and Leigh Keeble.
It makes disturbing (though not surprising) reading, indicating that despite the Government’s best efforts these programmes often don’t reach the most excluded and rarely increase civic engagement (except among the already engaged). Take a look at the “summary of the report”:http://www.jrf.org.uk/knowledge/findings/socialpolicy/584.asp or “download it as a PDF”:http://www.jrf.org.uk/bookshop/eBooks/1859351980.pdf
In amongst the gloom and doom there are some suggestions for better practice in future – siting internet access centres in the community rather than in libraries or colleges and organizing training around people’s perceived needs rather than forcing them into formal courses for example – both designed to attract people who have had negative experiences with formal education.
Underlying my own research is a belief that ICT can have an emancipatory effect – for some at least – but that mere provision of the technology (closing the ‘access divide’) is not enough. Community informatics programmes must lean much more heavily towards the ‘community’ in their titles if they are to succeed.
Also see “this earlier blog posting”:http://blog.org/archives/000990.html on similar research. Some there suggest that while library access may not be a good way for new people to access online resources long term it may have a useful role in introducing people to online resources. I still have my doubts but take a look at the two reports cited there and let me know what you think…