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Understanding Information Literacy - September 1999

Implications for Society and Culture

"How our country deals with the realities of the Information Age will have enormous impact on our democratic way of life and on our nation's ability to compete internationally" (ALA 1989). As a society, we are confronted with a huge number of decisions to make daily among candidates, issues, products, and other choices. Individuals' quality of life to a large extent depends upon the ability of citizens to be what Breivik and Gee (1989) call "discerning information consumers."

Indeed, information technology appears to be broadening the gap between the haves and the have nots. For example, minority and at-risk students, illiterate adults, people with English as a second language, and the economically disadvantaged are least likely to be able to access the kind of information that might lead to improvements in their lives (ALA 1987). Breivik and Gee caution that commercialization of information, control of information resources and new information technology could widen the gap between the haves and the have nots. This impending disparity can be headed off if access to information technology is provided and if competency with the information it provides is taught early in life.


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