Colorado Board of Education

Bridging Colorado’s Great Digital Divide

Colorado’s low-income and rural populations depend heavily on public libraries for Internet access, which is an important tool for creating economic opportunities in a state with significant high school dropout rates and low college attendance. The Colorado Board of Education proposes to spearhead a statewide public computer center upgrade and expansion project in 76 urban and rural communities, including 49 public libraries, school libraries, and the two Ute tribal libraries. The project proposes to add or replace more than 1,100 mobile and desktop computers and improve library services for people with disabilities. The project also proposes a statewide public awareness campaign to promote the training and assistance available, and encourage broadband adoption and public computer center use among vulnerable populations in the state. The project aims to serve a region with more than half a million Hispanic or English-as-a-Second-Language-classified residents.

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BTOP In Action
Library Trainer Crystal Schimpf gives a speech at the Miliken PCC launch

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

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