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Morino Institute From Access to Outcomes: Digital Divide Report and Dialogue

Executive Summary
Report Supplement
Using the Report


Executive Summary

From Access to Outcomes: Raising the Aspirations for Technology Initiatives in Low-Income Communities represents an ambitious effort to channel, redirect, and augment the energies that are being devoted to closing the digital divide.

From Access to Outcomes makes the case that technology must not be seen as an end in itself. Although most initiatives aimed at closing the digital divide have focused on expanding access to new technologies, the report concludes that providing access alone is rarely as effective as it is well-meaning. The report finds that initiatives in and by low-income communities are far better at producing meaningful change when people apply technology with tangible economic, educational, and social end results – or "outcomes" – in mind.

From Access to Outcomes offers a host of insights and case studies to illustrate how a new focus on outcomes – along with smart, large-scale investments to help achieve them – could help turn the country’s disparate digital divide efforts into a powerful movement capable of producing widespread social change.

Key conclusions of the report include:

  • The lessons corporate America has learned about integrating information technology into its operations and strategies can be helpful to nonprofit organizations struggling to do the same. In the corporate sector, fundamental change required far more than plunking down a computer in front of every employee. The magic occurred when individuals came to understand the potential of technology, acquired the skills to use it, and were wired together.

  • No matter how impressive the technology or how well-intended the motives, technology initiatives imposed on a community by outsiders are often ineffective. As a result, those who hope to promote the use of technology in low-income communities should devote a great deal of time to identifying and then cultivating relationships with key local leaders and organizations.

  • Investments in technology must go far beyond funding for hardware, software, and wires. For most projects, no more than one-third of the funding should go to technology itself, leaving more than two-thirds for developing programs that help people and organizations understand and apply the technology.

  • People who are committed to narrowing social divides should not underestimate how much time and energy are required to build the case for the relevance of technology within low-income communities. Most people in low-income communities see little reason to embrace technology. Worse still, many fear or distrust it.

  • To achieve meaningful national outcomes rather than just a set of small, isolated victories, federal and state governments should do more to provide frameworks and incentives to help focus philanthropic resources and stimulate private-sector investment in low-income areas.

  • New philanthropic models, including social venture funds and social investment funds, could help to expand dramatically the investments in technology-related initiatives.

  • To spark widespread change in low-income communities through the targeted use of technology, it will take well over $10 billion a year in additional technology-related investments. As steep as this price tag may seem, the cost of inaction almost certainly would be larger than the cost of action.

From Access to Outcomes was produced by the Morino Institute, a nonprofit that works to strengthen organizations serving the children of low-income communities. The report’s premises were refined with the help of dozens of top thought leaders in the fields of learning and technology who participated in an online discussion forum hosted by the Morino Institute from November 2000 to April 2001.

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