Magazine article Information Today

Silver Surfers

Magazine article Information Today

Silver Surfers

Article excerpt

Perhaps I have matured beyond the first flush of youth (and my hair has a bit of distinguished gray), but I would never have considered myself old enough to be a "Silver Surfer." That is, until I learned about Silver Surfers' Day, a day dedicated to helping older people (anyone more than 50 years old) discover how the Internet and e-mail can enhance their lives.

Silver Surfers' Day 2005 (http://www.silversurfersday.org), held May 27 and coordinated by U.K. computer training company Hairnet, offered about 400 events in U.K. libraries, colleges, pubs, and community centers. As part of Adult Learners' Week, now in its fourth year, Silver Surfers' Day is intended to help "mature" people learn how to shop and bank online, find information, and use e-mail and e-government services to keep in contact. Initial estimates show that between 4,000 and 5,000 people took part in the hands-on sessions.

People new to the Internet were encouraged by the stories submitted by the Silver Surfers of the Year and the Silver Surfer Entrepreneur of the Year. Two entrants were jointly named Silver Surfer of the Year: Graham Newman (for his site that provides information on prostate cancer) and Stuart Davis (a resident of a sheltered housing group who assists other residents with computer and Internet access). The Entrepreneur of the Year award was presented to John O'Nyons, who has developed an interactive CD training course on basic food hygiene.

Silver Surfers' Day, sponsored by organizations ranging from adult learning institutions to retirement home developers, noted that ProQuest Information and Learning provided free access to its Know-UK database at the day's events.

Chat with Your Librarian

Newly trained Internet users may want to try a new U.K. government-funded service called Enquire (http://www.peoplesnetwork.gov.uk). This free, 24/7 Q&A service is provided by libraries in the U.K. in collaboration with U.S. and Canadian libraries. Users can ask librarians a question via instant messaging and chat rooms.

Enquire was launched on May 19 as a service of the People's Network. It is managed by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and is delivered by OCLC PICA and Co-East, a libraries' partnership in the East of England. MLA chief executive Chris Batt said: "Enquire is designed to get answers to people wherever they are, night and day. It is a route to the librarian's expertise without ever crossing the library threshold. This is a demonstration of how the digital revolution can improve one of the greatest traditions of the public library."

More People's Network initiatives are scheduled for release in October, including Discover, a search engine service, and Read, which will provide access to online reading groups.

Broadband and Wireless in Canada

Canada is now bridging another kind of digital divide. On May 25, satellite operator Telesat (http://www.telesat.ca) launched a new two-way satellite broadband service, bringing high-speed Internet connectivity across Canada. Dave Lahey, Telesat's vice president of business development, said: "By delivering superior broadband access to places where geography or economics prevent traditional DSL or high-speed cable, Telesat is helping [to] make Canada's 'digital divide' a thing of the past."

The new service operates in the Ka band on the company's Anik F2 satellite and delivers high-speed connectivity at speeds up to 2 Mbps. Telesat launched the first domestic commercial communications satellite in geostationary orbit in 1972.

While some rural Canadian customers are getting their first taste of high-speed Internet access, all Canadians will soon be able to use 500 new wireless hotspot locations, which will comprise the broadest intercarrier Wi-Fi service in North America. The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA; http://www.cwta.ca), in conjunction with four national wireless service providers (Bell Mobility, Fido, Rogers Wireless, and TELUS Mobility), announced the Wi-Fi service on May 25. …

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