October 1, 2000
Many people feel they don't understand technology well enough to make reasonable judgments or decisions. They worry that they won't be able to learn enough to make a difference in how technology is used in their own communities or the larger society. To what degree can community organizations help?
Technology may not be the first concern of a community-based organization. As technology becomes more prevalent, however, agencies are faced with increasingly complex questions about what role technology should play in their work and in their communities. Several areas need to be considered:
- Can technology be used to help serve the community better? Some tools that might be useful to an organization are databases for keeping track of membership, Internet access to keep up with the latest developments in the field, or mobile technologies that streetworkers can use to connect people to shelter or emergency services.
- If technology is to be used, what considerations ensure that it is truly in the agency's and the community's service? Might there be unintended consequences of using the technology?
- What is the role of the organization in providing the community with information and knowledge about the new technologies, or actual access to the equipment? Many people worry about what kinds of computers their children should be using and what they should be doing with them. Others are concerned about learning to use a computer or a new piece of software that they might need in order to be eligible for a job, as well as where they can go for that education.
- How can organizations help to inform their communities about the potential impact and protect them from adverse effects of technology? Can they have a role in dealing with the effects of technologies that have already been introduced? Can they help avoid any negative effects in the future ?
Despite the complexities of these questions, you and your community can make informed choices. Start by grounding the discussion in the values and concerns of the community, and get some help from someone with reasonable technological knowledge. In this way, you and your community can start to identify the issues that are important to you and some of the approaches that you can use to learn more and take action.
This guide is meant to help you begin the discussion with "community conversations." Whether you want to raise awareness in the community and provide a forum for sharing ideas and concerns, or develop a technology plan for your community and/or organization that can then be implemented, this guide will help you get started.
This guide includes:
- Preparing for the conversation. Pointers for organizing a community conversation about technology.
- Conducting the conversation. Strategies for getting the conversation started, keeping it going, and keeping it on track.
- Following up. Suggestions for continuing the work begun at the meeting.