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Content gap – Few sites serve the poor

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More low-income Americans have access to the Internet than ever, but a new study suggests that they find little on-line that is useful to them, the Los Angeles Times reports.

A report by the Children’s Partnership found that at least 50 million Americans are poorly served by the Internet.

The study examined 1,000 Web sites and found that only 6 percent of them had the kind of content that Americans at or below the federal poverty level said they wanted.

Low-income Americans said they wanted information on local housing, local jobs and more culturally diverse and multilingual content. 

However, the study found little local information and that only about 13 percent of the Web pages surveyed were not in English.

Some sites do a good job of presenting practical information in accessible formats, the study found. Web pages of the Social Security Administration were cited as good examples. 

Community organizations, schools and even businesses generally do better than the government at reaching out to low-income communities, the Times reports.

For immigration information, the survey found that the most accessible site did not belong to the Immigration and Naturalization Service but to the commercial Immigration-USA.com.

The site provides information in five different languages and includes a comprehensive list of immigration forms.

The report suggested that content providers use better search, translation and multimedia tools, such as audio versions of text material, to make existing content more accessible.

The report also suggested that content providers hire people in low-income and immigrant neighborhoods to create Web sites that appeal to those audiences.

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