Can Facebook follow Chicago in bridging the digital divide?

imagesCAPPANR5Facebook has initiated a project, Internet.org, to help get more people worldwide online. According to this article in ReadWrite, Chicago’s Smart Communities objective has already successfully hooked up 30,000 families in two years and may be able to teach the media giant a thing or two.

The increase in computer use was achieved through concentrated education and outreach efforts, specifically to convey to residents how online access would benefit them. Millions in federal stimulus funds bolstered the marketing work. While the article notes that Chicago has many advantages over third world countries, for a project like this to succeed the author points out that organizers need to ask the communities what they want out of technology and also be interested in helping them, not just in turning a profit. Is Facebook trying to help people catch up or could it just be looking for new customers?

Shira S.

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