At various different seminars, on the show here and in the news journals, you see a growing concern today about the gap that is slowly creeping up on our society which separates those that are technologically advanced and those that are technologically illiterate.
Today the typical family when it feels the need and is mentally prepared to purchase a computer simply drives down to the local computer store and purchases one of the new fancy computers. Taking that system home, they now have the power to further themselves by enhancing their computer skills. By connecting to the Information Superhighway, they are now able to research efficiently, they are able to look for better employment, and basically most of the world's information is now at their fingertips.
However, there are many families that either cannot afford or don't take seriously the ramifications of being computer illiterate. The reality of this situation may not immediately effect or damage the individuals making that decision, but it will heavily impact and damage that individuals children. Today the need to be computer literate is higher than ever and growing at an increasing rate. Several years ago it was O.K. to not possess any typing skills or knowledge of computer applications - today quite often it is close to unacceptable - and, I'm not just talking about white collar jobs in an office setting, but blue collar and labor jobs.
Technology is taking over!! Big business and small business across the board cannot afford to ignore the increasing need for computer literate employees. Bridging the chasm between affluent and poor children is particularly crucial now, when more than half of all new jobs rely on computer skills. Computers should not only be used in preparing students for a job, but also in their everyday education. Many reports have shown that those children with access to the Internet and computer applications are dramatically more prepared and intelligent than those without computers.
Now that the problem has been stated, what do we do? Do we ask the government to take over and step into yet another society problem? I'm not sure that's the best answer - maybe some government attention, but mostly private contributions! In Los Angeles, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros has introduced a plan to develop computer learning centers at public housing projects. Although Cisneros offers little details, he has disclosed several private sector supporters including the Microsoft Corporation, Simon & Schuster, the Discovery Channel, and the Channel One Network. These companies will provide initial funding, software and other program content.
It is my hope that businesses around this area will recognize this as a serious issue and begin moving towards a resolution - let's not wait until the government steps in. Several businesses in this area already contribute and offer special pricing to the school districts and some companies, such as Southwestern Bell, are setting up Online Community Centers which are really facilities that are free to the public and allow individuals access to the Internet.
This is surely an issue that will get more attention in the near future. So if you're involved in the computer industry as a consultant or a software developer and have children or don't children - give it some thought. I know most of the schools in the St. Louis Metropolitan area are in need and could use your help in either an advisory role or as a contributor.