By Theodore B. Olson and Marissa Mayer, Co-Chairs, Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy
The Knight Commission Report sets three goals for achieving more “informed communities”:
* Maximize the availability of relevant and credible information.
* Strengthen the capacity of individuals to get and use it.
* Promote engagement with information and the public life of the community.
To meet these goals, the report presents 15 policy measures to help Americans meet their local information needs. These include:
* Setting ambitious new standards for universal broadband in the United States. Only by providing universal broadband access will Americans begin to realize a vision of digital inclusion, enabling all to participate effectively in their local community affairs.
* Increasing support for public service media, but with more local, inclusive and interactive fare. Public broadcasting needs to move to the next level of local public service in a way that includes and interacts more deeply with local citizens.
* Requiring governments at all levels to operate openly, with easy access to public records. Openness and transparency promote better governance, curb corruption, and foster local control.
* Including digital and media literacy as critical elements at all education levels. These new literacies should be part of public education, and seen as necessary skills for effective citizenship.
* Funding libraries and other community institutions for adult digital and media training.
* Engaging our youth in a kind of “Geek Corps” to develop local digital capacity.
There is a role for policy makers, at both national and local levels, to take the lead in building more “informed communities.” If our citizens don’t have access to information, they are denied an essential element for participation in life in their communities, and in our nation. In a democracy, information is a core community need. Just as they need good schools and safe streets to function well, our communities need a free flow of useful information.
So we hope you will tell us what you think and share these ideas. We need to identify, discuss, and implement solutions. Read our report, Twitter about this topic (hash tag @knightcomm), join the discussion at www.knightcomm.org, and watch what FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, CTO Aneesh Chopra and others have to say about these ideas.
We believe this erosion of democracy needs urgent attention. This is a moment of political, technological and journalistic opportunity to produce a revolution in civic engagement. Information availability, citizen capacity to access and understand information, and public engagement affects us all. As the Report concludes, the “information issue” is everyone’s issue.