Analyst firm the Yankee Group put out a paper today calling for President Obama to focus on the nation’s broadband and technology, suggesting, among other things, that DTV delays be halted, that new multitenant housing and office buildings be required to have fiber installed during construction, and that femtocells be used to expand wireless coverage inside federal buildings. But the one I’d like to see implemented is this one:
Create a Community Service Geek Squad to help analog citizens: Your first proclamation as president called on all of us to serve one another and the common purpose of remaking this nation for our new century. Yankee Group surveys show that 40 percent of U.S. citizens aren’t very interested in technology, yet many would use it if they knew how. At the same time, countless high school and college students live and breathe technology and are eager to answer your call to service. A national Community Service Geek Squad could help seniors and other technology-challenged communities become more connected with society while providing experience to young people at the same time.
I used to volunteer with a group that taught disadvantaged adults how to use computers so they could get better jobs. It was astonishing to me that in 2001 there were grown men and women who couldn’t use a computer mouse, or who had never worked on Windows. A digital divide still exists, however, and I believe that many of us would be happy to spend an hour a week to help someone get comfortable with a computer, or maybe offer to set up a Wi-Fi network to help bridge that divide. Plus, getting people comfortable with computers is the first step to getting them to want to go online — something just as important as providing the actual broadband access.