Tag Archives: jessamyn west

SXSW 2010 Interactive: How The Other Half Lives – Touring The Digital Divide

16 Mar

Have you ever wondered what it was like to not own a computer or have daily access to the Internet?

Probably not.

How The Other Half Lives – Touring The Digital Divide, was a great panel discussing how two librarians, Jessamyn West and Jenny Engstrom, handle teaching those who don’t have regular access to computers and the Web. West and Engstrom both discussed the types of hurdles and financial struggles they have to deal with on a daily basis. Though grants have been available in the past to teach technology in libraries, once those grants dry up, they struggle with finding the resources to teach those that want to learn. With the economic downturn, it has become even more difficult.

They also discussed how important usability is for those who don’t have regular access to technology. Though the admitted Internet Explorer is not the best web browser, it is what they have to use in many cases on their library computers. Both also discussed how jargon like cookies and operating systems fall on deaf ears for people that utilize their technology.

“Most people only have 45 minutes on the computer, so make it worth their time,” Engstrom said, citing how most libraries have a forced time limit on computers.

She said things like forced registration and instructional video for a site waste time. She suggested puttting a list of steps people can read, but also making sure not to force users to download a PDF or any other document.

They also said many are worried people will steal their identity and beleive they are at risk already. Part of usability for those on the digital divide means assuring that their information is safe and that the Web site as a whole is easy to access and use.

“We have lots of people who can tell you just how bad your Web site usabillity sucks,” West said.

Check out their slides used in the presentation here if you want to learn more about the digital divide, usability and libraries and technology access.