Executive Summary

Problem Description

Present State of Knowledge

Approach and Method

Modeling and Measuring the Information City

Information and Household Mobility in Cities and Metropolitan Areas

Telecommunications, Infrastructure, and the Environment

Information and Telecommunications Technology and Inner-City Communities

Broader Impacts

Dissemination of Research




Research Area #4: Information and Telecommunications Technology and
Inner-City Communities

Despite the rapid growth of the Internet and the penetration of personal computers into the American household, much of the U.S. population does not even have basic telephone service (OECD, 1992; NTIA, 1995). Without telephone service, citizens are limited in their capacity to communicate with employers, to be in touch with educational organizations, and to make requests for public services. Several alternative technologies may reduce the burden of being without a telephone. Wireless technologies, including two-way paging, may be an alternative to conventional telephone service in certain communities. "Simple paging services could limit telcos' [telecommunications companies] exposure to bill nonpayment while enhancing the communication access of otherwise phoneless people" (Mueller and Schement, 1996).

Steven Gregory, a professor of Anthropology and Africana Studies at NYU, and Walter Stafford, a professor at NYU's Wagner School, will describe and analyze efforts to provide access to telecommunications systems in inner-city communities. Numerous projects are already underway around the nation, yet there is no systematic information that compares alternative approaches to provide telecommunications services in inner-city communities. One strategy for the phoneless population is to provide voice mail to low-income individuals. The Community Voice Mail Project (CVM), in more than 20 cities in the United States, provides people without residential telephone service with a seven-digit telephone number and access code to retrieve messages from any public or private touch-tone phone. In some communities, Internet computer workstations accessible to the public in housing projects, community centers, laundromats, and at gathering places for the homeless (Mitchell, 1995). The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has established the Neighborhood Networks program to provide computer hardware and software to residents of HUD-insured and HUD-assisted housing.

Professors Gregory and Stafford will evaluate the use of information and telecommunications in inner-city communities. They will explore the use of community computer centers in libraries and housing projects; the use of beepers and wireless technologies by youth; the growth of phonecards and neighborhood telephone calling centers, as well as the factors affecting the use of the Internet for local community economic development.


With support from the National Science Foundation, under the Urban Research Initiative
(C) 1999, 2000, 2001 Taub Urban Research Center, New York University
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