Abstract - The Information Society 19(5)

SPECIAL ISSUE: ICTs and Community Networking

Beyond Access: psychosocial barriers to computer literacy

Laura Dianne Stanley


Research consistently indicates that Latinos and African-Americans are less likely to own and use computers than either Caucasians or Asians. While conventional wisdom holds that high computer costs and lack of access are the primary reasons for this discrepancy, my ethnographic research with 100 low-income adults reveals three non-cost related psychosocial obstacles that significantly undermine motivation for acquiring computer skills: “relevance”, “fear”, and “self-concept”. My research thus suggests that a more complex relationship exists between ethnicity, identity, and attitudes associated with computers than previously examined; and, that this relationship may better explain why some people are choosing not to use computers at this time.

My research also indicates that while community technology centers (CTCs) play an important role in helping adults overcome their resistances and achieve computer literacy, they are presently an underutilized resource - less than 5% of San Diegans use them to meet their computing needs. Hence, my research also questions why more residents do not avail themselves of these community resources. I conclude that efforts to increase computer literacy in underserved communities must go beyond physical access and connectivity and consider the role of cultural factors.

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