One Economy Corp increases access to technology and information in low-income communities
This week’s Public Media 2.0 showcase features One Economy Corporation, a global nonprofit that aims to increase access to technology and information for everyone, regardless of income. According to their website, One Economy helps to "bring broadband into the homes of low-income people, employ youth to train their community members to use technology effectively, and provide public-purpose media properties that offer a wealth of information on education, jobs, health care and other vital issues."
The Beehive features a wealth of information on crucial topics, including money, health, jobs, school, housing, emergencies and Internet safety. The site is available in both English and Spanish and content can be localized by zip code. All of the information is presented in a fun and engaging way, with short instructional videos, and interactive tools, quizzes, polls, and games. Additionally, each topic contains its own related "toolbox" of resources. For example, under "Healthy Living," one toolbox includes the following: a Body Mass Index (BMI) quiz, an interactive portion control tool, a guide to understanding medicine labels, and an exercise plan tailored to different activity levels with an additional "track your fitness" PDF printout.
Users tuned into media literacy will notice right away that The Beehive is supported by a long list of sponsors, including banks, drug companies, and telecommunications organizations. However, there is no evidence of editorial influence from these sponsors. All of the information on The Beehive is clear, succinct, and free from value judgments. There are some instances in which more information might be desirable (such as the BMI test, which does not account for body frame, muscle mass, or physical activity), but on the whole, The Beehive does a great job of presenting information. The site’s major strength is in making necessary information accessible to a wide audience without appearing condescending toward users with varying levels of literacy and technology skills.
One Economy Corporation’s next project is 247 Townhall, a "community forum dedicated to change. As in most other community forums, users can submit videos and articles and rank and comment upon other users’ submissions. The key difference in 247 Townhall is its focus on social issues. It is unclear how much attention has been paid to the site of late; for example, the "Events" section has not been updated this year. However, 247 Townhall staff and users have continued to post and comment upon videos, including this recent three-part series on healthcare in America.
Another project from One Economy Corporation is ZipRoad, a database of educational resources. Users can search by zip code for local schools, afterschool programs, tutoring, scholarships, and educational news. While it contains a network of powerful databases, ZipRoad is probably the weakest of One Economy Corp’s projects in terms of the "fun factor"— the resources are more functional than engaging.
Lastly, The Public Internet Channel (pic.tv) combines content about public issues with easy ways for users to take action in their own lives. Programs are categorized into four categories: Family & Life, The Money Place, Healthy Living and Living Green. Each program includes a toolbox (powered by the Beehive) of opportunities to learn more about the topic at hand. For example, "Diary of a Single Mom" is a series produced by filmmaker and comedian Robert Townsend that "chronicles the lives and challenges of three single mothers and their families trying to get ahead despite obstacles that all single mothers face, such as childcare, health, education and finances." The corresponding "Make It Easy Toolbox" includes resources for successful job interviews, getting a G.E.D., planning for a desired career, protecting kids online and homework help.
While each toolbox contains interactive tools full of valuable information that helps users make lifestyle changes, the resources rarely extend beyond personal improvement. What is missing from the Public Internet Channel (although it does exist to some extent on 247 Townhall) is the opportunity for greater public action. While The Beehive and ZipRoad appear to exist more for streamlined information than commentary, all four sites have the capacity to easily include opportunities for contacting governmental representatives or media entities for users who are interested in moving toward more systematic change.
Want to learn more about Public Media 2.0? Read our white paper: Public Media 2.0: Dynamic, Engaged Publics.
Ernest Wilson, Walter Annenberg Chair in Communication and dean of the Annenberg School for...
Vince Stehle, Program Officer for the Nonprofit Sector Initiative at the Surdna Foundation,...
Craig Reigel, Vice Preisdent of the Nonprofit Finance Fund, discusses the 4 ways that media can...