January 07, 2004
FROM: Steve Cisler Offline Project FAQ (version 12.12.03)
1. What is the Offline Project?
In January 2004 I will begin interviewing people and organizations that are not directly using the Internet to learn about them and how they cope in a world that is increasingly interconnected.
2. So this is about the Digital Divide?
I think one of the problems with this phrase is that it lumps all of those not using the technology into an undifferentiated mass. We need to understand the many reasons why people, organizations are not connected. I hope my project will put faces on the unconnected and dissolve the dichotomy.
3. Aren't most people offline because they have not been educated about the value of this technology?
There are many reasons people are not using the technology. Clearly, education about the potential benefits is very important in helping people get online. However cost, availability, language and literacy issues, and disabilities are barriers to access.
4. Most of us are online. I don't see the problem. In a few years everyone will be, right?
According the Nua Internet Surveys and Nielsen-Netratings over 600 million people are online out of a world population of more than 6.3 billion (according to the World POPClock at the U.S. Census Bureau). Most of those offline are in the developing world. Most of these unconnected people have more pressing problems than Internet connectivity.
However, many international development programs and national initiatives have made Internet access or, as some call them, information and communication technology (ICT) projects, to be the most crucial in evolving into a competitive and modern nation. The better ones integrate the technology into more general strategic plans.
Therefore it is important to understand the needs of the target populations and to understand that the curve of technology adoption varies by time, culture, age, education, and the technology in question.
5. That is a huge topic! How large is your team? What is your focus?
Although I am working alone, my contacts on the Internet mailing lists have provided suggestions for people to contact and places to visit. Community Technology Centers work with people not yet online. Libraries have been providing information services to the public long before the Internet was created. Other people have helped in subtle ways. By car, I will begin by visiting sites in California, and then travel to Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Later, I will go to Mexico. If that trip goes well, I will visit other countries where I have worked on technology projects over the past ten years.
In addition, I am corresponding with theorists, academics, government employees, and activists to learn more about technology resisters, prisoners, the handicapped, and marginalized groups that are not using the Internet. As the Pew study shows a significant number of average folks have dropped off the Net. This is important.
6. So you are using the Internet to contact those not online?
Until the end of December 2003, I will be using the Internet. After that, I'll join the multitudes and be offline during my travels and research. It will be a side story: how an advocate who has depended on a technology can function without it? I will continue to use the telephone and mail. I will record my notes on my laptop, but I will not have an email account or web sites. I plan to print and mail an occasional newsletter during my road trip.
I recognize that there are no more than two or three degrees of separation between non-users and the Internet. In some cases friends and family work as intermediaries, much as scribes in the town plaza would type letters on behalf of someone without the skills needed.
7. What are you going to do with your findings?
Besides the newsletter I plan to publish (in the general sense of 'making public') what I find. I always feel indebted to those who provided me with the stories and accounts, so I want some form of it to be freely available online, and if there are resources, in print. I will also make presentations to interested groups. This does not preclude traditional publishing, but that is not my primary goal.
8. What financial support do you have for this project?
I am paying for this myself.
9. How can people contact you?
Steve Cisler 4415 Tilbury Drive San Jose, California 95130
Telephone: 1 408 3799076
plus I'll have poste restante /general delivery addresses during my travels, as well as a cell phone number.