James Edwards, PhD, LMSW

Building a technology inclusive agency: A case study of technology use by women in recovery

We know that a “digital divide” exists between those with access to technology and those without access. The literature describes individuals with a disability, older adults, ethnic minorities, and families with incomes below $25,000 as more likely to have limited access to technology.

This qualitative case study examined how women in recovery experienced the digital divide and evaluated their treatment provider’s effort to assist the women in bridging the digital divide. The study found that the participants (n=30) of this small grassroots agency were aware of their lack of access to technology and felt disenfranchised as a result of this gap. Further, agency efforts to provide technology skills and access to the Internet were well received by the participants who completed eight weeks of computer training (n=4). For the participants, learning to send and receive e-mail was an empowering activity that allowed them opportunities to connect to the larger community in ways previously unavailable.

Other empowering activities were: registering to vote for the first time, contacting political leaders, and interaction with local institutions via e-mail. Additionally, the agency benefited from the participants’ access to technology through increased communication with the participants via e-mail. The results of this study support the concept of using technology to promote empowerment with vulnerable populations.