Computers are everywhere! Well, almost everywhere....

Although computers are becoming increasingly common in our society, large numbers of people have yet to sit in front of a computer or encounter an electronic mouse. Due to the cost of computers, people living in indigent communities are at a disadvantage in obtaining skills for the job market and in enjoying the benefits of personal and business computing.

The negative effects of this lack of funds appear among both children and adults. Schools in poor communities do not have the money to educate their students with the electronic tools of today. Without computers, these students have difficulty obtaining the skills they need to operate common equipment when they enter the job world. Furthermore, the lack of technology deprives the underprivileged of the personal, interpersonal, and recreational benefits of computer use, such as exploring the Internet or using spreadsheets to compile data. Without computer skills, many people are finding themselves unqualified to work many of the available jobs in the market, creating a cycle of unemployment and poverty within their communities. This cycle can persist between generations since case studies show that family background can have a significant effect on the future of children. If parents lack confidence when they face the world, children may have similar difficulties in succeeding economically. Additonally, small businesses in underprivileged communities miss out on the advertising advantage of maintaining a presence on the web.

Fortunately, organizations exist which are working to bridge the gap in computer use between underprivileged and privileged communities. Many programs dedicate themselves to repairing old computers, donating them to schools and other organizations to improve access. Other organizations provide technical and social training programs focused on helping people conquer the barriers standing between them and success with technology. While these organizations make a significant effort to improving computer access in underprivileged communities, this problem is far from being eliminated. As members of society step back and make an effort to understand the barriers to computing based on race and class, perhaps more people will offer their time and energy to this cause.

Dale Chen
Liz Douglas
Richard Salvador
Nicholas Solter
David Teng