BTOP in Action

By November 2011, the City and County of San Francisco held digital literacy training for more than 1,600 participants. These workshops were created to boost broadband adoption among low-income families, senior citizens, adults with disabilities, and other socially vulnerable groups. Known as the San Francisco Community Broadband Opportunities Program (SF-CBOP), the City is partnering with 18 nonprofit and educational organizations to provide new computer classes and resources for local residents.

For example, The Bayview Hunter’s Point Center for Arts and Technology and Streetside Stories, two non-profit media arts organizations, provide digital media youth programs, which prepare students for careers in website design and content generation. Offered at 13 locations across the city, these programs teach participants website design principles, digital filmmaking, digital storytelling, and content creation techniques. The Community Living Campaign, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of senior citizens, provides digital literacy classes in more than 50 senior centers. These classes include computer basics, Internet fundamentals, Internet safety, and social media techniques.

Additionally, SF-CBOP is using BTOP funds to deploy new workstations in computer centers across the county. As of November 2011, SF-CBOP distributed more than 86 new workstations to the Vietnamese Youth Development Corporation, the Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center, and the Western Addition Neighborhood Beacon Center. By the end of the BTOP project, SF-CBOP will provide over 300,000 instructor-led training hours in a variety of languages, including English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Russian, to more than 8,000 residents.

Last Updated: December 23, 2011

“City of Boston BTOP in Action Ribbon Cutting Mayor Thomas M. Menino”

Visitors to the Mildred Avenue Community Center in Mattapan, Mass., used to navigate the Internet “with the technological equivalent of a horse and buggy mired on a muddy road,” according to the Boston Globe. On August 24, 2010, the Community Center became the first location to benefit from the $1.9 million BTOP grant to the City of Boston. Now, computer users link to the city’s new broadband fiber-optic network with 15 new desktops. Before the project is completed, the city will provide 627 new computers and job training software at 48 locations including 15 community centers, 11 Boston Housing Authority (BHA) sites, and 22 libraries in many of the city’s lowest-income and lowest broadband adoption areas.

At the Mildred Avenue Community Center, the new state-of-the-art desktops feature cutting edge software allowing participants to gain basic work skills online, study for the state’s standards-based assessment program, and access multimedia to produce videos and other art. BHA centers will feature similar software as well as programs geared toward health education. Computers at local library branches will provide literacy training and email access.

The goal is to complete computer installation across the city by early 2011. When complete, nearly 18,000 people a week – a 40 percent increase – will be able to access broadband Internet as well as software designed for various subject matters, including workforce development, after-school education, and gang intervention-conflict resolution workshops

To see local news coverage, please visit here.

Last Updated: January 5, 2011

Parents and children learning at computers

The City of Boston is partnering with OpenAirBoston to help
low-income residents acquire the digital literacy skills needed for today’s technology-driven society through the Technology Goes Home (TGH) training program. This school-based family computer distribution and education initiative offers digital literacy training to students and their families across 52 public middle and high schools. Through March 2012, approximately 5,000participants have taken part in the program and earned a free netbook computer, and more than 300 families acquired new broadband subscriptions.

Through the TGH program, new users receive 15 hours of classroom training on a variety of topics, including computer basics, resume creation, and job searches. The program also offers classes on financial literacy, helping students and parents understand everything from credit cards to home mortgages.
In post-class surveys, 88 percent of adult program participants say they are likely to use online resources for job searches, and 80 percent are more likely to use online resources for banking. Additionally, the city has seen how TGH strengthens parents’ connections to school, each other, and their children. Sixty-four percent of English-speaking parents and 80 percent of non-English-speaking parents indicated that they had never participated in their child’s school before TGH. After completing the program, 98 percent of parents said they planned to become more involved with their children’s school.

TGH also makes acquiring digital literacy skills accessible to several underserved populations. For example, TGH provides blind students and their families with new Internet-based tools and applications that help them interact with the world. Additionally, TGH offers classes in eight different languages, including Spanish, Mandarin, Somali, and Haitian Creole. The program helps families integrate into their communities, providing them with a supportive network to help navigate parenting challenges. For example, parents in the Somali refugee community told program trainers that they felt disconnected from their children after coming to the United States. Enrolling in TGH helped them to better understand their children’s experiences and connect with them using technology.

Students attend one of the City of Chicago’s digital literacy classes

City of Chicago (SBA)
To spur economic development in five disadvantaged neighborhoods across the city, the City of Chicago’s Smart Communities program created the Business Resource Network (BRN), an initiative designed to help local businesses become sustainable, profitable entities by providing them free access to broadband, business software, and technology workshops. The BRN helps local companies acquire the broadband services, computer applications, and skills needed to succeed in today’s digital economy.

Small and medium-sized businesses participating in the BRN first conduct a technology needs assessment, which helps them identify new computer resources and skills. Once needs are identified, these businesses develop an action plan and map out an approach and timeline for acquiring computer equipment and business training. Businesses then participate in workshops and one-on-one consultations on a variety of topics, including software training, business planning, marketing, and website development.

Through December 2011, more than 180 businesses completed a technology assessment, 105 developed action plans, and 220 participated in workshops. For example, a local restaurant owner, who participated in the BRN, was able to increase his customer base by developing a marketing plan to promote the restaurant’s newly installed wireless Internet network. Additionally, a local resident received a raise at her job after completing one of the program’s Microsoft® Office classes. BTOP funding has also allowed the City of Chicago to create new jobs, hiring 17 full-time and 29 part-time staff for administration support and training.

In addition to providing resources for small businesses, the Smart Communities program also offers resources to help community residents develop digital skills. Residents can participate in digital literacy classes, covering topics such as computer basics, Internet fundamentals, and online banking. Through December 2011, nearly 10,000 Chicagoans participated in the program’s digital literacy classes.

Last updated: April 17, 2012

Image: Students attend a digital literacy class in Humboldt Park
Image: Charles Johnson leads the digital training class
Image: Smart Communities staffers discuss over a meeting in Pilsen
Image: Emy Tseng discuss digital issues with staff members
Students attend a computer class at the Dearborn Homes Technology Center

As of June 2013, the City of Chicago deployed approximately 2,500 workstations at nearly 150 upgraded and 18 new public computer centers across the city. These centers are part of the SmartChicago Public Computer Centers project, intended to provide Internet access and training with a specific focus on low-income citizens, at-risk youth, senior citizens, people with disabilities, and the unemployed. A large number of city residents lack home broadband access and rely on libraries and other public computer centers for broadband access, and for employment training and educational opportunities. Each week, more than 80,000 Chicagoans visit the centers, which provide a variety of classes covering topics such as introduction to Microsoft Office, graphic design, Internet basics, and computer security.

The city’s goal is to help Chicagoans improve their lives through computer resources and educational opportunities. The City of Chicago also developed the Digital Skills Initiative, a series of self-paced, online modules that will teach residents computer and workforce development skills. Chicagoans have free access to more than 300 modules covering topics from computer basics to advanced spreadsheet manipulation.

El Paso’s mobile lab, housed in a converted mobile home.

As of June 2013, the City of El Paso, Texas deployed approximately 1,300 computer workstations and 200 laptops in 89 public computer centers across the city. The city and the surrounding area face significant challenges because of poverty, sparse population distribution, and limited access to tools necessary for economic development. The Virtual Village: Digital El Paso’s Pathway to Success project provides much-needed computer access and training to vulnerable populations, particularly at-risk youth, the elderly, the unemployed, and minorities.

The city also uses a mobile computer training lab to bring digital literacy programs, workforce development training, and workstations to areas with limited broadband connectivity. As of June 2013, more than 163,000 El Paso citizens participated in classes on topics including Microsoft Office basics, e-government, resume writing and job searches, financial literacy, citizenship, and social media. In addition, approximately 48,000 users per week on average visited the centers during the last quarter to use the computer stations.

Lincoln Heights instructor Mario Martinez provides assistance to a young student

A BTOP Grant helped the City of Los Angeles tackle the digital divide in its most at-risk neighborhoods. Through the Los Angeles Computer Access Network (LA CAN) project, the City’s Community Development Department, Department of Parks and Recreation and various libraries developed and upgraded more than 180 public computer center sites throughout Los Angeles. As part of the $7.5 million grant, the City purchased more than 3,400 new computers, in some cases, replacing those that were seven to 10 years old.

Through LA CAN, the city worked to increase digital literacy in the most at-risk neighborhoods.

LA CAN opened new centers in areas with the highest levels of poverty and unemployment for maximum community impact. LA CAN provided more than 41,000 hours of computer skills instruction, Internet access for research, and job placement assistance to approximately 13,700 residents.

Volunteers unpack new computers
An instructor at the Echo Park public computer center guides a young student
Local community members use computers at the Cyprus Park public computer center
Two workers set up the new laptops and broadband access for Teen’Scape.
Two students use loaner laptops at one of the project’s upgraded centers

The City of Milwaukee’s Connecting Milwaukee Communities project opened a new public computer center and upgraded eight centers across the city. These centers are part of an effort to increase broadband capacity and availability at sites that have historically been unable to adequately serve local residents. These upgraded centers now offer new computers, training, and technology specialists to help patrons develop their digital literacy skills.

As of June 2013, the city deployed more than 330 laptops, serving an average of 9,300 users per week. Along with these computers, the centers provide a variety of classes covering topics such as computer basics, Internet fundamentals, word processing and spreadsheet skills, Internet search techniques, and online safety. The centers also offer career building assistance with resume creation, job searches, and interview preparation.

A visitor to a senior center sits at a computer and uses assistive technology.

The City of New York’s Connected Communities project is upgrading and expanding computer centers in libraries, public housing facilities, recreation centers, senior centers, and community support organizations across the city. The project provides digital literacy and multimedia training, access to after-school programs, test preparation, and workforce education. Each of the computer centers provides access to computers with software that enhances the experience for users with hearing, vision, and mobility disabilities through assistive technology. These functions include on-screen keyboard, screen magnifier, and text-to-speech applications that read text on the screen and allow or use of text or visual alternatives to sounds. The computer operating platforms also allow customization, such as adjustable keyboard and mouse settings, to accommodate individual needs. Through June 2013, the New York City Connected Communities project has deployed more than 1,780 workstations and provided more than 402,000 training hours. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the access provided by the Connected Communities project “is essential for individuals to succeed academically and economically.”

Computer Center Patrons sit at tables and use computers and tablets.

Before the College of Menominee Nation opened the Community Technology Center (CTC), the only Internet access available on the reservation was slow dial-up. The reservation is located in one of Wisconsin’s more rural and economically disadvantaged areas and uses the CTC to provide broadband access and workforce training and development for economically vulnerable populations, including people with disabilities, at-risk youth, tribal members, and the unemployed. Through June 2013, the College of Menominee Nation deployed approximately 130 workstations and served an average of 320 users per week.

The College of Menominee Nation has also partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Extension to offer tribal members classes to improve computer skills and digital literacy. A mobile lab travels around the community to teach people about broadband, its purposes and benefits, and basic computer literacy skills. Many members of the Menominee Indian Nation are active duty military and deployed around the world. Teaching computer skills, including how to use Skype software through these classes, enables family members to keep in touch with loved ones serving around the country and overseas.

BTOP in Action

Library Trainer Crystal Schimpf gives a speech at the Miliken PCC launch Colorado Board of Education

In a world where technology is key to creating opportunities, public computer centers are...

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