Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Internet Access Not Technical but Civil Rights Issue


In major metropolitan areas across the U.S., unequal access to the Internet is cutting some people off from a better future. Many are also cut-off from learning how to fully utilize this marvel of the digital era. Citizens on the wrong side of the digital gap are losing out on economic, educational and social opportunities.

It’s not just a technical problem for the 21st century. “This is a civil rights issue,” said Bill Callahan, director of Connect Your Community.

“Low-income people, people with less than a high school education and older people are the groups in any population who are least likely to have an Internet connection at home,” he said.

Callahan’s group advocates for digital access and literacy in greater Cleveland and Detroit. In those cities — and others from Baltimore to New Orleans, from Miami to Glendale, Arizona — as many as 30 to 40 percent of residents can’t easily get online, according to 2013 data.

Rural areas have a fairly well-known set of digital access problems that include high cost and sluggish speeds due to the lack of broadband infrastructure. But in suburban and metro areas, libraries are typically cited as the saving grace for residents who lack online access at home.

That’s not good enough in our wired world. “If the best someone can do is point you to the library, that’s basically ‘separate but equal,’” said Callahan, making a pointed reference to the very argument that the Supreme Court once declared didn’t justify segregated schools.

In Detroit, nearly 40 percent of residents have no Internet service, not even via smartphones. That appalling rate was noted in a recent New York Times story detailing how the lack of access has stymied economic recovery for some people.

Detroit resident Julie Rice told the paper about her struggle to network, complete training videos and fill out online job applications with her limited connectivity. “I’ve come to believe Internet is a human right,” Rice said. “It’s clearly a huge disadvantage if you don’t have it.”

Underscoring the importance of universal access, the Federal Communications Commission last year declared that broadband service is a public utility akin to electricity or telephone service.

In all but the most rural areas, the problem isn’t a lack of infrastructure, said Callahan. As with so many other civil rights issues, the problem is economics. “The idea that you can’t get Internet connection in a city because there’s no Internet available is almost never true,” he said. “People can get AT&T DSL in their homes any place in Detroit — they just can’t afford it.”

Without the Internet, poor people can be stuck on the wrong side of the door to opportunity. “The 40-year-old guy who can’t apply for a job now because he can’t get online would have no problem 10 years ago,” Callahan said. “He can still do the job. All that’s changed is the system to get the job.”

This hypothetical man all too often gets blamed for not being employed. Yet Callahan said, “This is not a failure on his part.”

Robert Shimkoski of the Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation, which helps connect jobseekers with employers in that city, said a lack of Internet access can trap low-income people in a vicious cycle.

“It’s increasingly difficult to find an employer who will take a physical application over an online app,” Shimkoski said. “And if you can’t get online, you can’t get the resources to understand where you can go to get that connection to help.”

Callahan said Internet access rates have remained largely the same in the two years since the U.S. Census Bureau last released figures. But the digital divide keeps getting wider, he said, as more systems across every industry — from health care to education — go completely online.

For example, Callahan cited a major change to the GED that went into effect in 2014. In theory, the second chance at a high school diploma can be a lifeline for struggling Americans. But now, he said, “All GED testing is in a computerized environment, though not online. Most of the models by which you can prepare depend on having access to online resources.” (And you must know how to use these resources.)

The shift to digital is one of the reasons, Callahan argued, that the success rate for GED candidates in Cleveland — where more than 33 percent of residents lack Internet access — plummeted by an estimated 85 percent that year.

“[Digitalizing systems] is progressing very quickly, and they’re essentially being put in a walled village, and you need to pay to get past it,” Callahan said. “And no one is willing to spend money to help the people on the outside get in.” Ensuring that there are community access points, like libraries and technology hubs, is important, but ultimately they’re no substitute for reliable Internet at home.

Callahan and Shimkoski are both optimistic about pilot programs from Comcast and AT&T that provide basic broadband access — and in some cases web training and low-cost laptops — to low-income residents.

Comcast in 2011 began the Comcast Essentials program to offer Internet access (without setup fees or contracts) to families who have at least one child who qualifies for the National School Lunch Program. The company’s most recent report indicated that more than 17,000 residents had taken advantage of the program in Detroit.

AT&T launched a similar program last month. It dropped the price to as little as $5 a month and widened the pool of eligibility to anyone in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. But CNN reports that Internet access under the AT&T program is at speeds considered below the threshold of broadband and there are data caps.

Still, Callahan said the programs are a digital step in the right direction.

Read Article (Kim Bellware | | 05/23/2016)

The plan is simple but effective; Currently they are quickly Digitizing Systems, while there is a push to connect everyone to the Internet. By the time everyone is connected to a reliable Internet, not much will change because they will not be proficient enough in its usage. Therefore, they will blame the individuals for not striving enough towards improving their own wellbeing.

Internet availability and access is important without a doubt, but knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself, is an issue just as important if not more.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

Master Level High-Tech Webinars

Five Characteristics of Digital Health Market Maturity


Failure, success or both?  This week is the kickoff of Aging in America (includes middle agers) and the ‘What’s Next Boomer Business Summit.’  So it’s time to consider what’s next after the bugling and missteps of so-called Digital Health.  Gartner did the Digital Health industry a service at the end of 2014, though given all the hype and hoopla, it was likely missed.  From their chart, we can see projected peaks in interest in quantified self, smart robots, mobile health, and wearable consumer interfaces – all of which was big, big, big in 2014. And a UK consultant seized the day and created the Digital Health Hype Cycle Chart.

However, something happened during 2015.  Investors were likely disillusioned with consumers and mobile health – and the term Digital Health took-over, much of it, wait for it…Health IT!  Was it because of an abandonment of fitness wearables?  Did they really expect everyone to buy a smartwatch because of Apple?  That really depends on who you mean by everyone.  What was the real reason behind Digital Health funding dropping $1.2 billion year after year?

Or maybe they weren’t disillusioned at all?  Is it a market when a category is in the kitchen sink of genomics, wellness, doctor productivity and mobile health apps?  Consumer categories that include patient or consumer experience top the list, followed by wellness/benefits and workflow.  Hmm – are those consumer categories?  At the end of 2015, MobilHealth News gave up and decided to call the whole shebang “Health Tech.”  Is this tech for consumers?  Not so much.

Gartner’s cycle, notes that eventually markets do mature.  So what would maturity look like in the Health Tech world as it applies to boomers/seniors?  Will the smartwatch be the center of the boomer universe?  Maybe if the font is enlarged and they never need charging.  Right now Apple is fixated on doctors, who may not appreciate all of the business partnerships reflected in that watch.  Tablets were the center of the innovation universe in 2010 – now sales (not just iPad) are declining as phones become ever-larger.  Is the mature Tablet Market one in which the devices are turned over to seniors?  Will that also be true of smartphones, where 56% of the boomers that have them, don’t like mobile ads – and according to Deloitte, they may not download ANY apps.

Five characteristics of Digital Health Market maturity.  What would boomers want to have in our mature Digital Health world?  Well here’s a starting list – comments welcome.  1) Their ‘privacy is well protected’ by their insurers, doctors, software, social network and device makers; 2) Their ‘health information is well-integrated’ into the multi-company health provider world – no need to carry around those CDs of EHRs; 3) Trends in their health patterns are noticed by care providers who use ‘predictive analytics’ to not possible problems; 4) Boomers do less driving to specialists, more ‘remote consultations’, which are appropriately reimbursed through Medicare; 5) Fitness gadgets are replaced by ‘well-being devices and systems’.

Read Article (Laurie Orlov | | 03/21/2016)

The article refers to the Aging of American and boomers but don’t get this twisted, we are all aging.  And the five characteristics apply to all ages of Americans; What age group would deny themselves or their family any of these five?

Digital Health and Digital Literacy are undeniably tied to one-another.  It’s in everyone’s best interest to get a little tech-savvy for their own wellbeing and that of their loved ones.

Our instructional webinars provide a long-term solution to help address Digital Literacy and how to use products of technology such as computers, mobile devices and gaming consoles. But your support is needed to make this happen.

Master Level High-Tech Webinars

FTC Finds Lumosity “Brain-Training” Unproven


As the all-pervasive digital era introduced fitness monitoring for a more efficient body workout,  also introduced was a method for a more efficient brain workout, supposedly.  Have you worried about staying sharp as you get older?  Chances are you’ve been bombarded with ads claiming you can stay mentally focused by playing simple brain-games.

But at least one of the products in this market wave, Lumosity, has been making bogus claims, according to the Federal Trade Commission.  And now the company behind it has agreed to pay $2 million to settle charges that its “brain training” advertising misled consumers.

Lumosity’s marketing is seemingly inescapable.  It claims to have 70 million users across more than 180 countries.  Its ads have aired on CNN, NPR, Spotify and Fox News – a lineup that lends it an air of credibility.  And to hear the company hawk its wears, you’d think Lumosity offered a cure-all for virtually every mental malady.

“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a news release Tuesday.  “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”

Lumos Lab, the company that developed Lumosity, charged consumers subscriptions ranging from $14.95 a month to $299.95 for lifetime access to its program, according to the FTC.  Beyond citing a lack of research to back up the company’s claims, the FTC also alleged the firm failed to disclose that testimonials promoting its product were solicited through contests where consumers received prizes such as iPads or trips to San Francisco.

A spokesman for Lumos Lab said in an emailed statement, “Neither the action nor the settlement pertains to the rigor of our research or the quality of the products – it is a reflection of marketing language that has been discontinued.  Our focus as a company has not and will not change: We remain committed to moving the science of cognitive training forward and contributing meaningfully to the field’s community and body of research.”

As part of the proposed settlement with the FTC, Lumos will need to have “competent and reliable scientific evidence” before making future claims about the effectiveness of its product.  The order also imposes a $50 million judgement against the company that will be suspended after the company pays $2 million to the commission.

An FTC spokesperson said the agency plans to spend the vast majority of that money on consumer refunds.  And Lumos will have to tell subscribers who signed up for auto-renewal plans between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2014 about the FTC action and give them a way to cancel their subscriptions, according to the FTC.

Read Article (Peterson & Fung | | 01/05/2016)

In an age of Amazing technology, not everyone knows how to use it to their advantage.  Unfortunately, there are those that “prey on consumers’ fears” with unsupported claims and this one was obviously very successful at it.

But, it appears Lumosity will continue to market its wears, according to their spokesperson, though they will change marketing practices.  Well, they definitely will not be getting a subscription from me.

Master Level High-Tech Webinars