From Digital Divide to Doing Democracy

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
Lodis Rhodes
Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

Digital divide imagery suggests unequal access to technology is both incidental and temporary. An alternative image is the scales of justice. An 'ideal-type' CTC tips the balance towards fairness and a holistic approach to developing people, places, and community institutions.

Research in Austin is testing if the Austin Access Model (AAM) is an effective way to provide free public access to the Internet at places other than home, schools, and the work place.


The scales of justice bend toward strong democracy. The hand of community serving, intermediary organizations that favor inclusion, broad-based participation, and learning-by-doing tips the scales toward social justice.


Community Technology Centers (CTCs) make access to technology a reality in lower-income communities. Research in Austin suggests an 'ideal-type' CTC. It has an outlook and practices that create a more stable and engaging learning environment for new users of technology.

The ideal CTC is a composite of a select set of CTCs in Austin, Texas. Some were 'charter members' of the club of activits who implemented public access in Austin. Others are recent additions to the Austin Free-net Neighborhood Network. Together, their work is the Austin Access Model of public access.

The AAM is a deliberate way to introduce and expand public access to internet technologies. It has two goals: 1) ensure high-speed connections to the Internet in all Austin neighborhoods, and 2) encourage competent and relevant use of digital technologies. AAM defines meaningful access as power - the power to create, choose and control opportunities in one’s daily life.


Discover and reproduce the conditions that allow CTCs to functions as broad based participatory organizations that focus on holist development of people, place, and organizational capacity.

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