Universal Access to E-mail: Feasibility and Societal Implications

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E-mail has swept the communications and information world, providing instantaneous global information and data exchange. However, an information elite still exists, made up of those with access to and knowledge about computers and e-mail. The diverging trends in access based on income and education are placing significant groups of current and next-generation U.S. citizens at a serious disadvantage in relevant job-related skills and in access to social programs and information. As e-mail becomes more pervasive, those information "haves" may leave the "have-nots" further behind, unless concerted efforts are made to provide all citizens with access to the technology. This study details the benefits of e-mail access, on both the personal and global levels. The study urges the nation to support a U.S. policy of universal access and addresses the technical and economic aspects of putting such a policy into operation. The book includes the following sections: (1) "Introduction" (Robert H. Anderson, Tora K. Bikson, Sally Ann Law, and Bridger M. Mitchell); (2) "Computers and Connectivity: Current Trends" (Tora K. Bikson and Constantijn W. A. Panis); (3) "Technical Considerations" (Robert H. Anderson and Joel Pliskin); (4) "Economic Issues" (Bridger M. Mitchell and Padmanabhan Srinagesh); (5) "Civic Networks: Social Benefits of On-Line Communities" (Sally Ann Law and Brent Keltner); (6) "International Implications for Global Democratization" (Christopher Kedzie); and (7) "Conclusions and Recommendations" (Robert H. Anderson, Tora K. Bikson, Sally Ann Law, and Bridger M. Mitchell). Appendices include "Additional Information on Computers and Connectivity" (Constantijn W. A. Panis and Tora K. Bikson) and "Interview Notes from Chapter on Civic Networks" (Brent Keltner). (Contains 209 references.) (Author/SWC)

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