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Tools for the Digital Divide

I know that the coming $150 computers and $49 web enabled phones will go a long way to filling the hardware gap, along with libraries providing some slightly more powerful PC solutions for those folks who can’t have/afford/maintain a PC. But one of the things that’s always worried me is that mainstream licensed software prices seem to not be predicted to fall at the same rate. Aha! There’s a challenge on the horizon.
Check out this posting from TechCrunch. MS Office is having its levees breached.
1. Google’s Writely is open for new accounts again. Free web based word processing.
2. Google Spreadsheets is web based, ummm, spreadsheets.
3. Google Calendar is out.
4. Rumours about Google Presentations and file storage abound (although Google Base is a start.
And there are loads of other productivity tools out there on the web that don’t require you to download and update software.
What’s the opportunity for libraries?
I know of some libraries that don’t offer word processing, printing, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. (I even saw one that had no printing but did have MS Word. Users were told to e-mail the document to yourself to print it at home. Hmmmm. I have no PC and use the library’s technology but I have to print at home…) Many also still claimed to bridge the digital divide! All library PCs are not created equal. Sometimes this was because of software costs, hardware limitations, or virus fears. Sometimes it’s becaus the exteral IT department had been ceded control of the library PCs.
These web based ‘office style’ tools offer the opportunity to have the tools without the cost. So, your library can jump on the train with training, bookmarks. promotion of these services so that folks can do resumes, letters, articles, and more. It’s just the same as the kids avoiding IM restrictions by using Meebo, web based IM.
Heck, it works for me too. I can be much more mobile and the day when I might be able to travel without a laptop or USB drive is nigh.
Stephen

Posted on: August 18, 2006, 7:37 am Category: Uncategorized

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