Recap of 2014 Digital Inclusion Activities
JANUARY 26, 2015
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.
With one of the first installations of Google Fiber’s small business plan, the Internet connection at the center is super fast. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Equipping Nonprofits: 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:
Avenue of Life
Black Family Technology Awareness Association
Blue Hills Community Services
Church of the Resurrection/Geeks for God
Cristo Rey Kansas City
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
Upper Room/Swope Renaissance
Urban Neighborhood Initiative
Urban League of Kansas City
W. E. B. DuBois Learning Center
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
- R C 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!