Missingham, a Parliamentary Librarian and Researcher for the Australian Government and Chair of Electronic Resources Australia (ERA), duly provides a passionate and clear argument for the challenge that Australia faces in connecting all geographically dispersed users to the digital (online) environment, to form a place in the new digital economy, coupled with the need and skills to freely and openly access these resources.
The article’s structure was written as a presentation to convince and justify to the Federal Government and the Australian community, the investment in our place in the digital economy and the role public libraries can play in managing digital services for the broader community. This was confirmed with relevant and informative statistical data, independent research and reports along with concerned user accounts.
Access to the Digital Environment
Missingham has highlighted two important themes to describe further; access to the digital environment, and the role of public libraries providing content for our digital citizens. In explaining Missingham’s concept of ‘content’, (Batt, 2003) describes it as becoming a widely used descriptor for web-based information. “It suggests a product, with structure, that can be trusted, that is integrated into the nature of the network and is focused on the end-user” (Batt, 2003, p.66).
To fully appreciate and understand Missingham’s paper we need to define the digital economy. Tapscott (1996) succinctly labels it as the “Age of Networked Intelligence” (p6), where information can be stored and retrieved instantly from around the world. Tapscott (1996) also says that the “new (digital) economy is also a knowledge economy, based on the application of human know-how to everything we produce and how we produce it” (p.197).
Access and Lifelong Learning
Both of these points; access and content also tie in with the popular mantra of ‘lifelong learning’. As Tapscott (1996) confirms “as you enter the digital economy, you become not only a knowledge worker but a knowledge consumer. We need to plan our lifelong learning and through self-paced and on-the-job learning, and formal education and training, we can stay robust in a changing economy” (p.200).
Access and the Net Generation
Access to the digital environment in the form of connectivity and content must be for all abilities and generations. However an important group that Missingham has overlooked is the Net Generation’s (‘Generation Y’ those aged 16-29) technological demands. Tapscott (2009) says that the “Net Generation are evolving the Internet from a place where you find information to a place where your share it, collaborating on projects and solving problems, creating and democratising content which will have a revolutionary impact on everything it touches from entertainment, politics, business, and education” (p.40). Tapscott (2009) believes “if we listen to them and engage them, their culture of interaction, collaboration, and enablement will drive economic and social development and prepare us for a more secure, fair, and prosperous future” (p.8). This group in
Access and regional
The regional divide also could have been discussed further as we may see generations of people move away from particular regional areas, preventing them contributing to the digital economy. As the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee says a neutral Internet platform should be available to everyone, making it not only in High Definition for early adopters (cities) but to target those with lower resolution or low bandwidth. “We won’t be feeding them our culture but their culture is going to come back very strongly” (Berners-Lee, 2009).
Content and the role of libraries
The underlying theme in Missingham’s paper is the increased role that public libraries can play in regards to content. “Content will drive learning, create new life skills, support daily life and personal development and enable everyone to achieve more and understand others better” (Batt, 2003, p.67). Libraries have traditionally been quick to take advantage of new technologies. The State Library of Queensland, and the Gold Coast City Library are both access points to content via the ERA subscription. The SLQ offers search programs for those new to current technologies with “authoritative, unbiased and current content” (Barron, 2010, p. 29).
Missingham’s presentation provides a powerful reason for change yet accompanies her points with a number of achievable solutions via the access points of ERA and public libraries in
. “All citizens must be able to find and use information. It is the key raw material, but it is a zero resource, if there are no access points to it” (Electronic Resources Australia. 2011). Finally it is also up to citizens to adhere to the mantra of ‘lifelong learning’. “The digital economy is based on knowledge and innovation, and users will need to reinvent their knowledge base throughout their lives” (Tapscott, 1996, p.197). Australia
. (2011). About ERA. Retrieved March 21, 2011, from Australia
Barron, L. (2010). Untangling Web 2.0. Insight, SLQ Magazine. Winter, (8)29.
Batt, C. (2003), Policy push, personal pull: trying to make sense of the journey towards
the information society. In S. Hornby & Z. Clarke (Eds.), Challenge and Change in the information
Berners-Lee, T. (2009, July 10). Web at 20. Digital Revolution [Video file]. Retrieved from http://wn.com/Tim_Berners-Lee's_keynote_speech_at_'Web_at_20'_event__Digital_Revolution__BBC_Two
Tapscott, D. (1996). The Digital Economy.
: McGraw-Hill. New York, NY
Tapscott, D. (2009). Grown Up Digital.
: McGraw-Hill. New York, NY