In 2001 we established five ways that a community, whether large or small, could reconnect itself after the separation that occurred worldwide in the post-industrial economy. Among the five, the fourth was “Digital Democracy,” now known by us and communities as “Digital Equity.” It is simple to explain but hard to achieve (evidently). It means simply that, as in the great moral mandate of our species, we leave no one behind. In our case, we urged that all communities find ways to ensure that all of their population, rural or ex-urban or dense city blocks, be given access to the global economy. For it is in the “global economy” where opportunities, ideas and vast treasures and muck proliferate in ways that can rebuild our local places.
It was mainly a theory back in 2001 in our first white paper, proven with but a handful of models back then. We looked at communities as diverse as Sunderland, England and Silicon Valley, USA.
On Tuesday, November 8th in the USA, as it had been on other dates in other places, our theory was given a political expression and proven to be a potent weapon in gaining a mandate at the ballot boxes of a free people.
The American presidential elections, not unlike the political trends in much of Europe and other parts of the world, revealed a sizable fissure between rural and urban. While there has always been a divide in cultural attitudes between the hicks and slicks, there is now a perception that those on the other side of the digital equity divide have been forgotten. For a people with a culture (and that is all people), there is nothing harsher than to be made anonymous. The first response is always anger.
So anger led itself to reasoning that change was the apparent medicine back to recognition. There is no dispute of this, while the means of healing remain – well – still contested.
ICF has been in the center of this attempt to bridge the divide since it established both its digital equity criteria and its Rural Imperative initiative. It established an Institute in Mississippi to see whether broadband and digital tools could infiltrate rural communities in that great American region.
Under the direction of Dr. Norm Jacknis, our “virtual metropolis” concept and the “connected countryside” notions have become real efforts. Our “New Connected Countryside” webinar tomorrow (November 15) is another salvo in our movement. Our revolution of community.
We will have much more to say on this subject from this point forward, both here in this blog and throughout the ICF’s programs.