Recap of 2014 Digital Inclusion Activities

In 2014 we opened our first public access computer center

In 2014 we opened our first public access computer center in Kansas City KS

NE Wyandotte Community Technology Center: Probably the most significant event of 2014 was opening the Kansas City KS center in March. This project is a partnership with the Kansas City Kansas Housing Authority. The center is across from the Juniper Gardens low income housing project where we created a four-block wide Wi-Fi hotspot in April 2013 that reaches about 300 households. The center is in the 66101 zip code which has the highest rates of crime and poverty in the entire state of Kansas. Since it opened in March, 1,100 adults and 700 teens and preteens have used the center’s twenty public access computers. We also offer free digital life skills classes on-site.

Last summer, we moved our refurbishing shop to the new Kansas center while continuing to conduct regular training sessions in the Reconciliation Services building at 3101 Troost in Kansas City MO. Our new community technology center is a model for similar programs in other Kansas City urban neighborhoods. In the coming year, we will be focusing on outreach to the Northeast area of Kansas City on the Missouri side of the state line. Our research has found that a very high percentage of families there are living on the wrong side of the Digital Divide.

Family Computer Day at the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council.

Family Computer Day at the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council.

Digital Life Skills Classes Reach More Inner City Residents:  In 2014, 2,106 people from Kansas City’s urban neighborhoods learned about computer basics, e-mail and the Internet through our efforts. 244 class sessions were led by staff and volunteers at ten different sites in the urban core. 25% of those who participated had never used a computer. 80% were minorities and 75% had annual incomes of under $20,000. Two thirds of participants were women, most whom were over fifty and had at least one child living with them.

Last year we kicked off a new concept we call “Family Computer Days” which are sponsored by churches, schools and community organizations. We partner with them to prepare a day long training event tailored to the unique needs of the people they serve. Along with three or four training staff and volunteers, we bring along a trailer full of computers which can be taken home that day by those who participate in the educational sessions.

Our PCs are going to neighborhoods where only 1 in 5 families owns a computer.

Our PCs go to neighborhoods where only 1 in 5 families owns a computer.

Refurbished Computers Go Where Few Families Own PCs:  In 2014, nearly 1,000 refurbished computers found their way to parts of the city where as few as one in five households own a computer (2013 US Census). 20% of our refurbished PCs found their way to cash-strapped churches, schools and nonprofit organizations.

For individuals who qualify as low income and take our courses, we provide a complete desktop system for as low as $75.00. This work was accomplished thanks to the efforts of two full-time shop managers, interns and volunteers. We are very grateful for the many individuals, businesses, organizations and government entities who made these efforts possible by donating thousands of used computers last year.

hubs

Inexpensive Unlimited 4G Wireless Internet Service Launched: Connecting for Good continues to operate Wi-Fi mesh networks that supply free Internet to three low income housing facilities, reaching about 500 households. In our efforts to provide affordable connectivity to people we serve, we forged a partnership with EveryOneOn.org and Mobile Beacon. Launched in November 2014, we now offer a $10 a month plan with no long-term contracts or credit checks. It is the Internet equivalent of a “pay as you go” cell phone. And, because so many people in the neighborhoods where we work do not have bank accounts or credit cards, we are accepting cash payments for the monthly subscriptions. This year we look forward to the conversion of this service, which runs on the Sprint network, to full LTE providing even faster connections.

Train-the-Trainer session at 3101 Troost, Kansas City MO

Train-the-Trainer session at 3101 Troost, Kansas City MO

In 2014, Connecting for Good emerged as an equipper of other organizations that are working to close the Digital Divide among their own constituents.  Through hosting our training events, sending staff to train-the-trainer activities, refurbished PC partnerships, constructing computer labs, installing Wi-Fi, providing IT support and other activities, we’ve joined forces with local nonprofits to help more under served people become productive users of the Internet. As part of these efforts, we had the privilege of being one of the founding organizations of the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Coalition.

Kansas City area community groups we worked with in 2014 include:

Amethyst Place
Avenue of Life
Black Family Technology Awareness Association
Blue Hills Community Services
Church of the Resurrection/Geeks for God
Cristo Rey Kansas City
Harvesters
Hispanic Economic Development Corporation
Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council
Kansas City Kansas Housing Authority
Kansas City Kansas Public Library
Kansas City Public Schools
Kansas City Public Library
KC Digital Drive
Literacy Kansas City
Mutual Musicians Foundation
Operation Breakthrough
Reconciliation Services
Surplus Exchange
Upper Room/Swope Renaissance
Urban Neighborhood Initiative
Urban League of Kansas City
W. E. B. DuBois Learning Center
Welborn Villa
Westside Housing
YMCA of Greater Kansas City

A Special Thanks to our Partners and Supporters: Connecting for Good exists because of the support of local foundations and many committed individual donors. For all the great support, we are very grateful. We want to especially acknowledge the following for making substantial financial investments toward our efforts in the past year:

  • Breckinridge Capital Advisors
  • UnifiedOnline!, Inc. (CTC/KCNAP)
  • Diocese of Kansas City/St. Joseph
  • Edward. F. Sweeney Foundation
  • Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund
  • Kates Foundation
  • Ewing Kauffman Foundation
  • David Woods Kemper Charitable Trust (UMB Bank)

While we are excited about last year all we accomplished last year, we are preparing to make an even biggest impact in 2015. We will share some of our plans in a later posting. Thank you for your continuing support!

Donate to Connecting for Good

26. January 2015 by Michael Liimatta

Closing the Digital Divide with Refurbished PCs

Refurbishing Workshop manager, Karita Matlock, at work

Refurbishing Workshop manager, Karita Matlock, at work

The main contributor to the Digital Divide is a lack of access to affordable computer equipment. Under resourced people who could benefit greatly by connecting to the Internet simply do not have the funds to purchase a PC.

At Connecting for Good, we live by the motto “Reuse Before You Recycle.”  Every year millions of perfectly usable computers are stripped down and their components recycled. The cash return on this practice is less than $12.00 per unit. Not only is reuse better for the environment, it allows us to create high quality Internet ready PCs for low income families and cash-strapped nonprofit organizations. We also offer free and affordable ways for them to connect to the Internet.

These refurbished PCs are a valuable resource for the senior citizens, inner city students and low income families who are receiving them.  Who knows?  If by placing an affordable Internet-connected PC in the hands of a teenager living in a housing project, you might have just launched the career of the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs!

Interns learn value tech skills in our refurbishing shop

Interns learn value tech skills in our refurbishing shop

At Connecting for Good, we are the electronic version of the gleaners who gather useful food from the fields after the harvest.  We want to put still useful PCs back into the community where they can do a world of good. In 2014, we provided nearly 1,000 refurbished computers to low income Kansas City residents for as low as $75.00. Some of them we use to create public access computer centers in schools, churches and community centers. In the coming year, we plan to double our output now that we are operating a full scale, professionally staffed computer refurbishing workshop.

Our staff, interns and volunteers take used desktops and laptops and create high quality, Internet ready PCs. The refurbishing operation provides over one third of Connecting for Good’s annual operating income.  Additionally, these efforts provide jobs with us for people from the urban core and a chance to learn marketable technical skills for our interns and volunteers.

As a participant in the Microsoft Registered Refurbisher Program, a software grants program allows us to provide these computers to those who complete our free digital life skills classes and meet income qualifications.  Every computer that comes out of our shop has a fully registered copy of the Windows 7 operating system.  Microsoft Office is also available.

We follow a strict set of data destruction standards that ensure the confidentiality of the information on the donated computers we receive.  What we can’t use, we send out to certified recycling organizations so nothing ends up in a landfill. To meet our outreach goals, we need hundreds of used computers every month.

Won’t you help?  You may be able to  give us PC equipment that you don’t use and get a year end tax deduction at the same time.  What is no longer useful to you can be turned into something that will truly change people’s lives for the better!

  • If you are interested in giving your equipment toward our efforts, please use our Computer Donation Form.
  • If you would like to volunteer in our refurbishing operations, use this form.
  • See About Us to learn more about Connecting for Good.
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04. January 2015 by Michael Liimatta

Update: November/December 2014

clear-4g-devicesWe now offer the Internet equivalent of a pay-as-you-go cell phone plan! For just $10 a month, low income individuals and families can connect with fast, unlimited 4G wireless Internet. No credit checks, no long term contracts.One of the most important aspects of our digital inclusion efforts is to create opportunities for low income families to get online in their homes. After a year of planning and research, we have found an approach that almost everyone we work with can afford. This program is made possible by a partnership with EveryOneOn.org and Mobile Beacon. To learn more call us at (913) 730-0677.

lab

Since we opened the NE Wyandotte County Community Technology Center in March 2014, hundreds of residents of the Juniper Gardens public housing project and the surrounding neighborhood have used the facility. They take advantage of open computer lab times, free classes and other activities. Open five days a week, the center has become a valuable resource to both adults and youth in one of Kansas City’s most under resourced neighborhoods. It is a model we plan to replicate in other needy inner city Kansas City neighborhoods, making public access computing more widely available. Over the past several weeks, we’ve made a significant investment in upgrading the computer lab with additional technology and faster bandwidth. The result is an even better user experience for those who use our computers on a daily basis.

LiteracyKCLiteracy Kansas City is a non-profit organization providing no-cost, one-to-one tutoring services to adults in the greater Kansas City area. Through our partnership with them, the people they help learn to read are now able to get very inexpensive PCs and the digital skills they need to access the online world. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with them and other great local people-helping organizations with training for their staffs, inexpensive computer equipment and low cost IT services.

B2Cadd4IgAAkx2eThe busy workbench at our PC refurbishing workshop. This past year, we saved hundreds of perfectly useful computers from the scrap dealers and put them into the hands of low income individuals. Most have gone to inner city neighborhoods where fewer than 1 in 5 households own a computer according to the 2013 US Census. For people who struggle to meet their daily expenses, it’s difficult to get a computer. We make it easier by asking $75 for a complete system – and that can be done on layaway. Our workshop has scaled up and we are now producing nearly 200 Internet ready PCs a month.

marc_2014While our computer refurbishing efforts get affordable computers to low income families, we are helping the environment too. To recognize our efforts, on December 5, 2014, the Mid-America Regional Council will honor Connecting for Good as one of their 2014 Sustainable Success Stories. This award highlight projects that advance the three pillars of sustainability — social equity, economic vitality and environmental stewardship.
As you are planning your year end charitable contributions, please consider investing in Connecting for Good. Help us to continue our efforts to make sure that anyone who can benefit from using the Internet is able to do so.

Won’t you help?

21. November 2014 by Michael Liimatta

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