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Web site targets the poor

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Aiming to offset what it says is a big gap in online content, The Children’s Partnership has launched a Web site featuring information and tools geared to poor Americans.

The new site, contentbank.org, features other sites that focus on health, education, jobs and housing, and recommends sites designed for visitors with limited literacy and who want Spanish and cultural content.

Backed by the Markle Foundation, the new site also promotes the creation of original content geared to the needs of poor people, those with limited literacy and those who don’t speak English, as well as to community-based groups that connect poor neighborhoods to technology.

“Internet content is skewed towards those with disposable incomes and higher educational levels,” says Wendy Lazarus, co-director of The Children’s Partnership, a child advocacy group. “Contentbank.org aims to tilt the scales toward the millions of low-income users who are eager to take advantage of new opportunities online.”

In a study two years ago, The Children’s Partnership found that, in addition to computers, online content was the “new frontier of the digital divide.”

The group spent the past two years developing the new site, which it says is part of a growing effort to provide Internet access and training to low-income, rural and underserved communities so they can benefit from the digital economy.

According to a new report by The Children’s Partnership, Web-based resources poorly serve 50 million Americans.

With 44 million Americans lacking reading and writing skills needed to tap many opportunities, the report says, Internet information for early readers still is in short supply.

Forty-five million Americans speak a language other than English at home, up from 32 million in 2000, the report says, yet while Spanish speakers can find more online content than they could two years ago, content in other languages is nearly nonexistent.

At the same time, the report says, the number of locations outside the home at which people can get Internet access has grown. The number of community technology centers, for example, has doubled, while the number of public libraries offering Internet access grew to more than 15,000 from 11,000.

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