Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Rural/Urban Differences -- Not so many!

After a long holiday weekend (without checking my Bloglines), I'm wading through the mountain of messages. I was reading Jessamyn West's post about her work last week, and one section struck me:

As I was leaving this gal came up to me and asked what the drop-in was for and I gave a rough outline. She said she had a document on her laptop that she wanted to print and asked if we had a printer. In the area I live, there are no Kinko’s or other printing places, so you either get your own printer, go to the library, or get it printed by a friend who has a job with a printer. I told her to swing by which she did later. Turns out that she has an old Mac laptop with no disk drive. Because of security issues at the lab, we can’t put unknown machines on the network, so I told her to go back to the coffee shop and email it to me and we’d print it tomorrow. The letter was a recommendation for a kid who had worked with her who was either going to college or getting a job. The woman lives in a house with no electricity (and no Internet access) so did all of her work at the cafe or other places with wifi. We got the letter printed out on her letterhead and put it in the mail.
I got to thinking. Here I am in the downtown of my state's largest city (population about 142,000), there is no Kinko's or other copy outlet here. The nearest one is the Staples at 4543 Main Street (about 4 - 5 miles away). For many here, without a car, that distance is insurmountable (yes, the bus runs there, but how often? Can they afford the fare?). If you live on Bus Route 8, you are probably fine, but not if you live in the East End or on the East Side.

While most folks in the city have electricity, not all have phones, and most do not have Internet service. Even wifi can be sketchy.

Rural and urban. There are many times when the differences are less than they would appear.

1 comment:

  1. My friend Karen Schneider emailed me this comment.

    I question that most people in Bridgeport don't have Internet access. That would go against Pew's findings that 75% of urban dwellers have 'net access.

    BUT, I would very much bet that most people in the library's area do not have Internet access, and are disproportionately underconnected. The lack of a copy store reminds me of downtown Newark.

    See: http://www.pewinternet.org/trends/User_Demo_12.05.05.htm

    My feeling is it's not urban/rural, it's a question of poverty index. Just a hunch. I would bet you would find wide disparities in 'net access right in Bridgeport itself.