Bridging the Information Divide
In Philadelphia, there is an Information Divide between news and those who have access to it, and the Digital Divide contributes to that.
First, what is the Information Divide?
The Information Divide is when communities lack equal and comprehensive access to information and resources that support them in making informed decisions.
When the information divide stems from the media it can look like communities not having a local news source that’s credible and reliable. Without local news and diverse coverage, residents aren’t provided with the knowledge to make informed decisions about politics that impact them directly.
All national issues, such as gun control, healthcare, education, and more, are the same issues compacted into our Philadelphia neighborhoods. So, it’s important for people to be aware of what decisions local governments and authorities may be making on their behalf without their knowledge.
So, what is the Digital Divide, and how does it play a role in the Information Divide?
The Digital Divide is the gap between those with access to the internet and modern communication devices and those without. With the majority of our information today coming from online sources, those who do not have access digitally are left in the dark. This Digital Divide is a challenge in Philadelphia, with nearly 20% of our city’s residents not having reliable internet access.
The Digital Divide contributes to the Information Divide when residents are not able to access digital news sources to keep them informed and connected to a wide range of information and resources that help them enhance their lives.
How is Resolve helping bridge the Information Divide?
Our Equal Info Text Line is a free question-and-answer service that provides “bite-sized” news reporting and verified resources in English and Spanish on information that directly impacts the community. Our text line is managed by real people who are proximate to the communities they serve and work to ensure that everyone is getting the information they need.
The Germantown Info Hub (GIH) is a community-centered newsroom, practicing engaged journalism and solutions journalism. They share information and stories catering to the residents of Germantown and work to bridge the information divide through storytelling and in-person engagement.
GIH provides computer literacy resources, such as PA CareerLink, an online toolset to help people navigate Zoom, Google Docs, and other online platforms. For those without access to technology, GIH also offers printed resource guides through the Equally Informed Philly newsletter.
Another example of how GIH’s work helps to bridge the information divide is by informing the community about elections. Taking part in elections is important to make a difference, but informed civic engagement is even more critical. For that to happen, communities need an accessible platform to encourage the necessary conversations and questions.
An example of how Germantown Info Hub provided this platform is by bringing electoral candidates from the 8th District City Council debate race in front of community members to answer questions directly sourced from them. Through this in-person engagement, GIH encouraged people to be more active and thoughtful in their voting processes, giving them a better understanding of how to address what matters most in their own communities.
GIH has also written stories outlining best voting practices and rights, and even provided summaries of ballot questions, providing more context and information to strengthen democracy by helping neighbors access voting information.
Philly Documenters bridges the information divide by making public meetings more accessible and transparent to increase civic engagement from residents. They recruit, train, and pay Philadelphians to take notes and attend City Council committee meetings, zoning meetings, and more. The more knowledgeable residents are about the decisions made by their local government, the more they can hold local politicians accountable.
These initiatives, Equally Informed Philly, Germantown Info Hub, and Philly Documenters, help to bridge the information divide by acting as a link between the people in the community and the resources they need. This work not only provides people with the information they need to make informed decisions about their own lives but empowers entire communities as a collective.