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HomeNot So Equal Access
Not So Equal Access
Posted on: Thursday, July 12 2012 |
By Karwanna Dyson, AmeriCorps Vista Project Manager
BAVC recently conducted a study on how accessible information is to residents of underserved communities in San Francisco. The study was comprised of an information "scavenger hunt," in which participants searched the Internet for vital information such as:
- where to find a school budget
- which city leader to contact to share critical information that affects their community
- how many community newspapers serve their neighborhood.
Being knowledgeable and having access to such information allows for individuals to better navigate through life and creates stronger communities.
Attendees and participants included, among others, representatives from City of Dreams, City College, CBS Interactive, BMAGIC, the San Francisco School Board, the City of San Francisco's Department of Technology, and several youth from the Bayview, Mission and Tenderloin districts.
Not surprisingly, the study revealed that individuals from these underserved communities often lack digital literacy as well as access to basic technology, such as computers and the Internet. Although there may be some local resources available that provide access (such as library branches), a lack of awareness about these and other resources affects these communities the most. But the bottom line is still: information is not as accessible as it should be. Even while going through the scavenger hunt, participants found that vital information that could make a difference in their lives was either completely buried in web pages, inaccurate, or simply no where to be found.
It was also noted by a participating City College student that, “being able to access this information is hard if you are not well-educated.” That pretty much speaks to the situation facing most folks who live in underserved neighborhoods.
So, how to change things? Based on our study, we found that improving the flow of information could be as simple as encouraging youth to explore citizen journalism. Community-based media more accurately reflects the voices of a community and can be a means of better connecting with the City of San Francisco, in order to communicate what information is difficult to find and how to better make it available on official websites.
The scavenger hunt was a great experience not only for residential participants to discover the type of information they’re entitled to, but for the city leaders and decision makers in the room, as well, who were also able to experience firsthand how difficult it is to access information that is supposedly "public." It was pretty magical.
They say “knowledge is power” and it is the endeavor of BAVC and bavc.org to not only empower individuals from underserved neighborhoods with knowledge, but with skills that will make the difference in their lives. As a digital literacy training center and facility, BAVC is now in a better position serve communities like the Bayview, Tenderloin and the Mission thanks to this study.
As a result of the information gathered through the Knight Toolkit Workshop process, BAVC staff are now exploring opportunities to collaborate with other community organizations to improve information infrastructure and remove barriers to accessing information. We are very grateful to the Knight Foundation for the opportunity to engage our community in this way, and look forward to continuing this important work.
Click below for more information on some of the resources discussed:
72hours.org – Disaster preparedness website for San Francisco
Everyblock.com – Neighborhood news alert system
Caminossf.org – Digital Literacy Tra
Earn.org – Microsaving provider for low-income families in San Francisco
If you are an organization who may be interested in conducting your own Knight Foundation study, visit http://www.infotoolkit.org/ to sign up for more info.