Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Digital Divide Snubs Parts of Rural America


Flagstaff, Arizona: Low population density means phone and internet companies don’t upgrade services – but in the Navajo Nation vital infrastructure was never installed.

It’s been two years since Sonia’s husband’s fatal heart attack. Almost anywhere else in the United States, emergency services could have helped her. But in an isolated corner of the 27,000 square miles that constitute the Navajo Nation, she, her daughter and one of her granddaughters had to manage without technology most of the rest of America takes for granted.

The family were outside Tolani Lake, in part of the vast Navajo Nation’s land in north-east Arizona. “My husband had roped a bull that we were dealing with,” Sonia said. “He said he needed to catch his breath. I told him to sit down and he did.” He started to feel better, got back to work and then faltered again.

“We were taking him over to the truck,” Sonia recalls, “but he knelt down.” Sonia’s daughter called 911.

Across the vast majority of the United States – almost 99% of the country – 911 callers can be traced directly to their cellphone’s latitude and longitude, enough information to send help by air. But not here.

Sonia, who asked that the Guardian not use her full name or the names of her family, tried to describe their surroundings, but the dispatcher in Leupp, Arizona, 20 miles away, was unfamiliar with the area. And there was no information from their phones.

The dispatcher asked the family to come to the nearest road.

Three generations of Sonia’s family carried the older man between them across the patch of desert between the livestock and the truck. They put him in the back and drove. A fire truck met them at the top of a hill closer to the main road. Eventually an ambulance arrived and drove to Leupp across dry miles of unpaved road, where cars fishtail and spin out if they try to hurry.

In Leupp, the vital helicopter was waiting, but by then it was too late.

Sonia said she’s made her peace with it. “He probably didn’t want to live after that. He doesn’t want to be at home not doing anything,” she said, her voice breaking. “He likes to be out there and he’d have to put up with that. So it’s OK with me. Even if we’d got him going again, he wouldn’t have wanted to be there.”

‘After a while, people just stop calling’ In many rural communities in the US, the low population density means that phone and internet companies simply don’t upgrade their equipment often enough to keep pace with progress. In Navajo, much of the vital infrastructure was never installed to begin with.

The thin unshielded silver wires strung between the telephone poles that run alongside the highway connect places like To’hajilee, a reservation of about 4,000 people to the outside world. In large parts cellphone coverage is spotty – at best. There is no broadband. In February, a break in the community’s sole line meant that none of the ATMs or credit card scanners in town worked.

Navajo is the largest recipient of funds from the US Bureau of Indian Affairs – it’s the most populous tribe in the country – but the figures themselves can be insultingly low. A 2014 grant to Navajo’s state-owned internet provider, which aspires to serve the community of 300,000 across an area larger than West Virginia, totaled some $32m. AT&T of Tennessee received $156m in federal money to provide broadband access to 81,000 homes in rural Tennessee the following year.

Adam Geisler, 31, is not Navajo; but is on a mission to improve the ability of police officers, ambulance drivers, and the fire department to identify and respond to disasters. He works with FirstNet, an authority set up by the US Department of Commerce to spend $7bn in federal funds setting up a data network for first responders across the US.

FirstNet owns an incredibly valuable piece of unreal estate: a chunk of radio-wave spectrum big enough to make its owner the fourth-largest network in the country. It’s FirstNet’s job to pay someone to take it.

There is friction within Navajo, too. Benson Willie, of Tolani Lake, calls the area around Window Rock “the golden circle”. “All they have to do is put up their hands,” he groused to Phelps. Years before, Willie lost his mother to a car accident; his frantic 911 call was rerouted three times and it took an ambulance ninety minutes to reach him. He could have gone to Leupp, had a hamburger and come back in the time it took the medics, he said.

“His anger represents a whole group of anger out here. Which is good,” Phelps said later. “Energy is good.” The alternative is despair.

Read Article (Sam Thielman | | 05/16/2016)

There is no quick fix for extending Internet into many rural areas in America. But it must be accomplished somehow. I was under the impression the Internet by satellite would be the answer but that has yet to happen.

The Digital Era is all pervasive; effecting Cultural, National & International laws as well as the General Public, Governments, Government Officials and even Law Enforcement.  It’s up to each individual to get a little Tech-savvy for their own wellbeing and that of their loved ones.

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Digital Divide Impairing UK Economic Growth


The UK may take top place internationally for ecommerce, and in the top five for technology availability, but a new joint report from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and IBM reveals a growing digital divide that is hurting the country's economic growth.

Despite ranking highly in ecommerce and tech availability, the UK ranks much further down the ladder in terms of company-level adoption of digital technology, found research from the CBI and IBM. Ranked 14th in the world, many UK companies appear to be struggling to digitize business at the rate of other countries.

While 55% of pioneering companies have adopted digital technologies and processes, the remaining 45% are falling behind, found the research.

It is not a lack of conviction about the impact of digitization, indeed nearly all businesses (94%) believe digital technology will revolutionize the business landscape. Instead, businesses perceive connectivity challenges and security concerns as barriers to digital adoption. Forty-two percent also cited a lack of appropriate skills inside their business (42%) and an "unclear return on investment" (33%).

"Businesses globally are in the throes of an extraordinary digital revolution that is transforming productivity and creating a new generation of winning companies," says Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI. "But in the UK, too many firms are being left behind. While pioneering firms are seizing digital opportunities, nearly half are struggling - a growing digital divide that is threatening UK competitiveness."

The report asks that businesses consider three key recommendations. Firstly, that business appoint a Chief Digital or Technology officer to the senior executive team to drive digital strategy and execution. Secondly, that businesses increase the age and skills diversity of boards and board advisers so as to draw on the expertise of a new generation of 'digital natives'. And lastly, that businesses work more closely with each other to share ideas.

Read Article (Helen Leggatt | | 04/26/2016)

Business must consider both internal and external customers when going digital. This is not an endeavor to take lightly. An example of how current life is more challenging for those digitally disadvantaged is the roll-out of Obamacare in the United States. Even though the website was intended as the primary source of program information, design issues made it difficult for many people to navigate. As a result of digital literacy or slow connections just 1% of millions of people that visited the site managed to register during its first week.

At the exponential rate that technology is advancing in the 21st century, it is inevitable that there will come a day when even millennials will be unfamiliar with the latest technology. Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

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“Lively Inc.” Out-Of-Business, What can we Learn


The failure of “Lively Inc.” is making entrants into this market segment nervous, so let’s consider. Over the past week remaining physical assets of the Silicon Valley Firm Lively or, were acquired by another business. As this was a well-funded startup, lets reflect on what might have happened and what can startups & current ventures learn from this?

Well, as it stands not too much – Lively was not a typical example of the industry it entered. Founded in late 2012, launching in the spring of 2013 and quickly sank, going out of business just last week.  At the outset, it appeared to have all the components of great potential. Founded by the successful Iggy Fanlo (AdBrite, and others, seeded with $2.8 million from Maveron LLC and another $4.8 million from Cambia Health.

The experienced board of Lively included Laura Carstensen, professor at Stanford’s Longevity research so much advice was available and Lively was in the Aging 2.0 GENerator portfolio. Its design was attractive in a market segment not known for beautiful products and the initial offering included a LivelyGram, a family-written attractive print mailing sent to the elderly user.

But multiple mistakes were made and others should learn. So given all the factors –high profile founder, board members, VC funding, nice design, great PR – why did it fail?

  • Initial direct-to-consumer marketing approach was wrong. For sensor-based monitoring and PERS, the channel sales approach has been the only viable approach.  By 2013, the sensor-based home monitoring market had never seen any direct-to-consumer success despite millions of investment in previous attempts by Wellcore & QuietCare.
  • The founders had no background in the senior care market space. This seems to be a recurring Silicon Valley cliché: we liked your last company and we like you, so regardless of the market category, we will fund you because you’re one of us. So, experience in the home care sector not required for your funding.
  • Institute for the Ages study was inadequate. A much heralded but tiny (29 units) in-market pilot with consumers was held with support of the now-defunct Institute for the Ages in Sarasota in April, 20163. What was learned about utility of the product and whether the majority of the devices worked as designed? Whatever the outcomes, Lively plowed on – raising another$4.8 million and launching 5 months after the pilot in September, 2013.
  • Did the founders see problems with their hardware? In Iggy Fanlo’s own comments, “Hardware is HARD. Our friends at Apple have raised the consumer expectations bar so high that it’s difficult to achieve that goal at startup scale. The cliché is true: the journey IS the reward.” Mr. Fanlo was well-trained in Silicon Valley startup-babble.

Read Article (Laurie Orlov | | 12/06/2015)

Is it possible that a simple poll, asking consumers if the wanted these products could have averted failure?

Please support our startup campaign, as consumers have asked for assistance in learning to use products of technology. Starting 12/14/2015 on Indiegogo.

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