When it was announced to the world that U.S. forces had killed Public Enemy No. 1, Osama bin Laden, I got the news as a text message on my BlackBerry from a friend who'd received an alert from his online news service.
By the time President Obama officially addressed the nation, the news was old - 60 minutes had elapsed since the bulletin first hit my hip.
In the 24/7 news cycle around which our world revolves, being connected to the right information at the right time has become a matter of vital importance.
Sure, many of the folks living online are doing so socially, as friend requests fly faster than political promises on Election Day.
And if you want to apply for a job, more likely than not you will be required to do so online.
If you're trying to increase your learning, chances are you'll be asked to enroll via computer, and once you're admitted, your class will use online materials and may even be conducted online.
And recently it was announced that the White House will soon have the capability to text any cellphone in the United States to warn of impending danger, under a new emergency alert system scheduled to be rolled out in New York City by the end of this year; the rest of the country will follow in mid-2012.
Being "plugged in" is becoming necessary to our survival.
Sadly, too many people are left behind because they remain disconnected. The digital divide is widening within some circles, and you're more likely to be on the wrong side of the chasm based on your economic condition rather than the complexion of your skin. The bottom line is that if you're trying to figure out where your next meal is coming from, you're not going to be spending a lot of time on a smartphone, laptop, or iPad that you can't afford.
The good news is that Philadelphia is one of the cities leading the country in addressing this inequity. More than seven years ago, Philadelphia was ahead of the curve when it announced plans to make the city the nation's largest hot spot.
That ambitious plan fell short of its goal, but it nonetheless set the city up to be awarded federal dollars last year to establish the "Freedom Rings Partnership," a multiyear initiative to bring Internet access, training, and technology to residents in underserved communities. Led by the Urban Affairs Coalition and the City of Philadelphia's Division of Technology, with Drexel University as a major partner, the program seeks to connect more than 100,000 low-income Philadelphians over the next two years, particularly children, the under- and unemployed, and seniors. The plan includes setting up hubs at more than 130 locations citywide, including 77 public computer centers, as well as deploying four mobile computer labs that will travel throughout the city this spring and summer to provide Internet access and training.
Technology is only as powerful as the hands trained to use it.
This past Martin Luther King Day of Service, I was one of thousands of volunteers working on various projects, all of which had some aspect of bringing technological resources to communities that need them the most. I was charged with repairing refurbished computers that had been donated to the cause. As with most tedious tasks, I was hoping to speed through this drudgery, until a volunteer trainer reminded me that every computer being worked on would likely be the very first in a home that never had one. A job done right was more important than one done quickly.
The Freedom Rings computer centers have started to open up. The training has begun as folks from the corner stoop to the bodega have clicked on to be part of the digital revolution. And one of the great benefits of this information transformation is that jobs are being created as neighbors are being paid to teach neighbors, smartening both up in the process.
All of this is happening right now. And not a moment too soon. Because the reality is that, when it comes, the revolution will likely not be televised. It will come and go with a tweet.