BTOP in Action
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
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Last Updated: January 5, 2011
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
In a world where technology is key to creating opportunities, public computer centers are significant community assets. The Colorado State Library, operating under the Colorado Board of Education, is creating a culture of technology engagement through its public computer center project, Bridging the Great Digital Divide. The project is designed to improve lives by providing computers, training, and public awareness campaigns in 81 Colorado communities.
Since receiving its $2.3 million BTOP grant, and an additional $1 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and local libraries, the project has distributed more than $1 million to local libraries and the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes, which has helped them purchase 681 laptops, 487 computers, and 59 tablet computers for community use and training efforts. Two library systems in High Plains and Lamar also hired three new staff to lead public training classes.
In April 2011, libraries began offering training on topics, such as basic computer skills, job skills, and Internet use. In the first three months, Colorado public computer centers offered more than 260 training classes to nearly 3,000 people. Local community partners also are working with the libraries to host training topics including workforce skills, business 2.0 development, and new immigrant literacy. In addition, the State Library staff developed a technology boot camp and curriculum to help library staff and community volunteers become more proficient in technology.
To further the goal of increasing broadband adoption, the State Library also developed a statewide public awareness campaign to encourage community members to visit the centers, take training classes, and adopt broadband. Libraries throughout the state will participate in the campaign by hosting local launch events with open houses and guest speakers. Twenty-seven public computer centers held events from April through June 2011, and additional events are planned for the coming months. The State Library staff also developed nationally recognized tools for gathering local statistics to evaluate the effectiveness of training and outreach.
Through the Bridging the Great Digital Divide project, Coloradoans will learn skills, access online education and health information and be able to participate more fully in the digital economy. Community agencies also can now offer training in ways they were not able to do so before, allowing citizens in remote parts of the state to stay connected with regional resources, such as workforce centers, small business development offices, and regional agricultural offices. Resources and opportunities provided by the Colorado State Library’s project can have a lasting impact on communities across the state.
Last Updated: October 14, 2011