Winter-Spring 2002 Content-Building for and by Local Communities
by Laurie Lipper and Francisco Mora

The Children’s Partnership is launching a new web site geared toward community technology center staff that focuses on helping build content for and by local under-served communities in early 2002 —

When The Children’s Partnership released its study “Online Content for Low-Income and Under-served Communities: The Digital Divide’s New Frontier” in March 2000, it found that of 1000 relevant web sites surveyed:

  • 6% or less of online content was the local information users want and need,
  • 1% of online content was developed for adults with limited literacy,
  • 1% of online content was created in a culturally relevant manner, and
  • 2% of sites made information available in a variety of languages.

The research also found that these types of information were precisely what low-income and other underserved users were often looking for to meet their daily needs.  Moreover, community-users were more likely to be using the Internet to increase opportunities for themselves and their families: to find jobs, educational/training opportunities, housing and services.

The release of the research spurred a rich response from communities all around the country, and internationally, amplifying the findings of the report.  In addition, many people sent ideas, requests and examples of community content. 

Based on this outpouring and extensive research, The Children’s Partnership is creating “The Community Contentbank” to assist local communities find, use, build and share content within their underserved communities.  In addition, The Children’s Partnership is working with advisors and community technology centers to make sure Contentbank directly meets the needs of community tech staff.

Contentbank provides three major elements:

  • Knowledge (e.g., ready-to-use curriculum, in-depth analysis of groundbreaking initiatives);
  • Information (e.g., web resources in general categories, such as health, education and housing);
  • Technology resources (e.g., web design, portals, e-learning) is envisioned as a “community space” that will provide an ongoing process for users to develop materials for themselves, alongside experts who help quantify and analyze what users need and want.  The results will be shared on with the broader community of those interested in local content and with policymakers, funders, the media and  the Internet industry.

What to Expect from Contentbank

  The following features are incorporated into the web site: 

  • A translation utility to make the site accessible in Spanish;
  • A Read-A-Loud utility that reads material out loud to provide assistance for those learning English (ESL users);
  • A compilation of program profiles which created interactive manuals to develop community technology programs;
  • A collection of reliable web resources approved by a team of content area experts;
  • A community section for ‘community learning and sharing’ with seasoned practitioners that will be archived and easy to search;
  • An advocacy section to spur community and policy action on community technology issues.  This will be closely linked to The Children’s Partnership’s online advocacy program: Young Americans and the Digital Future.

The web site is one element in a broader national program about content for underserved children and families that will help achieve the following objectives of the program:

  • To advance the development of quality content FOR AND BY low-income communities as a key strategy for overcoming social disparities and social divisions;
  • To assist organizations, such as community technology access centers, get started with building their own local content for low-income families;
  • To serve as a research tool to identify what low-income users need, what exists, and what should be done;
  • To foster a link between the needs of low-income communities and the abilities of policymakers, the Internet industry, and other decision-makers, so they fashion their policies and products in a way that includes community interests.

Laurie Lipper is Co-Founder and Co-Director of The Children’s Partnership; Francisco Mora is a TCP Senior Consultant and co-author of the study cited in this article.

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