Knight Foundation Report Urges More Information Access

By: Joe Strupp A new report from the Knight Foundation warns of "an erosion of democracy with the creation of second-class citizens in the digital age" if new efforts to balance online options and access to information are not made.

In "Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age," a national commission offers 15 new ideas to help people meet their local information needs.

"This is a moment of political, technological and journalistic opportunity," Theodore B. Olson, former Solicitor General of the United States and co-chair of the Commission, said in the report. "Communities need to move forward thoughtfully to stake out ambitious agendas for access, openness and transparency. If they don't, both civic engagement and our national economic prosperity are in peril."

The report sets three goals for achieving more informed communities: maximize the availability of relevant and credible information; strengthen the capacity of individuals to get and use it; and promote engagement with information and the public life of the community.

It also sets out recommendations for reaching these goals. Among them:

* Set ambitious new standards for universal broadband in the United States. Only by providing universal broadband access will America begin to realize a vision of digital inclusion, enabling all to participate effectively in their local community affairs.

* Increase support for public service media, but with more local, inclusive and interactive fare.

* Public broadcasting needs to move to the next level of local public service in a way that includes and interacts more deeply with local citizens.

* Require governments at all levels to operate openly, with easy access to public records. Openness and transparency promote better governance, curb corruption, and foster local control.

* Include digital and media literacy as critical elements at all education levels. These new literacies should be part of public education, and seen as necessary skills for effective citizenship.

* Fund libraries and other community institutions for adult digital and media training.

* Engage our youth in a kind of "Geek Corps" to develop local digital capacity.

The entire report can be found here.


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