Access to Community Information

Access to Community Information

Do all citizens in our region have access to free and public information so they are able to participate in a democratic society? That all lives are enhanced by having access to community information? Our Community Foundation Initiatives help to achieve those ideals.

The NV360 community visioning project identified a key community issue: Information Sharing– how citizens access and share information. The Foundation is committed to providing resources to help find solutions that address our community information sharing needs.

America needs “informed communities,” places where the information ecology meets people’s personal and civic information needs. This means people have the new and information they need to take advantage of life’s opportunities for themselves and their families. They need information to participate fully in our system of self-government, to stand up and be heard. Driving this vision are the critical democratic values of openness, inclusion, participation, empowerment, and the common pursuit of truth and the public interest. -Knight Foundation

Taking Stock: Are You a Healthy Information Community?

No one has developed a system for scientifically measuring the quality of a local community’s information environment. Communities can begin to take stock of their information environments by considering the following eight features that the Knight Commission* report stresses as elements of a healthy
information community:

1. A majority of government information and services online, accessible
through a central and easy to use portal

  • Driver license and vehicle registration information
  • Tax information
  • Social services
  • Contact information for government officials

2. A local government with a committed policy on transparency

  •  Are documents publicly available and understandable?
  • Are they easy to obtain and promptly released under appropriate freedom
    of information laws?
  • Is government operating in the sunshine?

3. Quality journalism through local newspapers, local television and radio
stations, and online sources

  • Are they economically healthy and robust, providing high quality civic
    information as well as life-supporting information?
  • Is there a diversity of viewpoints and competitive choice?

4. Citizens with effective opportunities to have their voices heard and to
affect public policy

  • Are there civic organizations prepared to transform information into active
    civic engagement and public policy engagement?
  • Is there opportunity for public comment on proposed policies and
  • Are there online channels for expressing views and concerns?
  • Does the community have regular summits and town meetings to inform
    and engage the community in civic issues?

5. A vibrant public library, or other public center for information that
provides digital resources and professional assistance

  • Does the community have public spaces available to all that provide easy
    access to Internet content as well as traditional sources material, such as
    newspapers, periodicals and books?

6. Ready access to information that enhances quality of life, including
information provided by trusted intermediary organizations in the
community on a variety of subjects:

  • Health
  • Education resources
  • Employment
  • Social services
  • Public transit
  • Emergency services
  • Arts and Entertainment

7. Local schools have computer and high-speed Internet access, as well as
curricula that support digital and media literacy

  • Are kids trained to use the modern digital tools to learn, to produce content,
    and to coordinate and organize activity? This is digital literacy.
  • Are kids trained to question the validity of online material, develop a
    critical eye, perceive and protect themselves from dangerous situations, and
    appreciate the dictates of journalistic integrity? This is media literacy.

8. High-speed Internet is available to all citizens

  • Does local and state government promote development of and access to a
    telecommunications infrastructure that gives easy and affordable access to
    services and information found primarily on-line or digitally?
  • Are these services, including high speed Internet access, available in the
    home, in schools and in other public institutions?
  • Are there choices of service providers?
  • Wireless and wireline communications and Internet services are valuable and
    offer different experiences. Are both available?

* Informing Communities:Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age: The Report of the Knight Commission on the InformationNeeds of Communities in a Democracy