In the Community Stories

This page aims to share best practices by providing in-depth success stories about how organizations are improving digital literacy among local communities across the country.
The Internet Is Important To Everyone Infographic

For the past year and a half, OCLC’s WebJunction has been guiding and documenting local leadership teams in nine pilot communities who are figuring out how to increase information technology access and use (referred to as "digital inclusion") in their communities. The project is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Service (IMLS) and based upon Building Digital Communities: Framework for Action (The Framework), also funded by IMLS. The Framework recommends community-wide digital inclusion efforts involve a variety of sectors. Local leadership teams representing government, libraries and nonprofits lead the nine pilot communities. The pilot communities have taught us many lessons, including:

  • Many local leaders tend to understand the need for broadband infrastructure but not the need for home broadband access, public broadband access, and digital literacy skills.
  • Explaining the importance of information technology access and use is complex.
  • Local government involvement is essential.
    • In response to those lessons learned, WebJunction worked with partner organizations to create an infographic.

      The Internet Is Important To Everyone aims to bring attention to the impact broadband has on our lives, our health, our government, our jobs, and our education while considering who among us does not use the internet and who does not have home broadband access. The infographic explains why Americans are not using the internet or purchasing home internet service and offers actions our communities can take.

      Everyone is welcome to share this infographic, particularly with community leaders working on economic development, workforce, civic engagement, education and health. Attached is a 4 page printable PDF. A full length PDF and files of individual sections of the infographic are available at oc.lc/digitalinclusioninfographic.

      WebJunction created the infographic in partnership with the International City/County Management Association, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and TechSoup Global.

three women announce opening of computer center

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 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. Recently 10 new public computer centers opened in the High Plains Library District. 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. 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.

UW-Extension log

A small business automotive repair shop (My Tires) in Platteville, WI uses broadband to increase customer service. Previously, the shop ordered tires over the phone and online ordering has increased business and sales. Check out the video here to learn more.

UW-Extension log

Schools in northern Wisconsin are using the internet in different classrooms to provide new opportunities to reach all types (and ages) of learners. For example, each teacher in the school district in Superior has a website where students and parents can log online and find out information on assignments and upcoming events. Additionally, through video teleconferencing, The University of Wisconsin-Superior provides distance learning opportunities for adult learners obtaining their degree through a distance learning course of study. Additionally, one-on-one course offerings are available to assist business owners, or aspiring business owners, through an informal classroom setting. Check out the video here to learn more.

UW-Extension logo

The Building Community Capacity through Broadband (BCCB) program in Wisconsin offers a computer classroom on wheels. These classes provide tribal members of the Menominee Nation with lessons on basic computer and internet skills. This broadband literacy project is part of a partnership between the BCCB project of UW-Extension and the College of Menominee Nation. Check out the video to learn more about the program.

Kids from the Seattle United NHBD’s Night Out prog pose for a photo booth pict.

YTECH digital literacy and civic engagement programs served 271 young people in the summer months of 2011. Each young person gained digital literacy skills while working as a team to learn about a social issue, connect online and in person with community leaders, create digital media and take action in their communities. YTECH is program of the Metrocenter branch of the YMCA of Greater Seattle.

“Armed with hard skills, access to technology and a forum for expression and action, we can create the next generation of employable, engaged, skilled civic participants,” said Chris Tugwell, YTECH director.

Fifteen high-school aged youth from a workforce development program in the city participated in a seven-week internship with YTECH and formed Seattle United Neighborhoods to tackle neighborhood-specific problems.

“We used photos to tell stories and reflect on issues around Seattle that needed to be changed,” said Chi Nguyen, 19. One of Chi’s projects was a photo essay that addressed a lack of lighting on the streets surrounding her house. Chi and other project participants shared their media and concerns with Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien. After the meeting, Chi was able to take necessary steps to fix the lighting on her street.

“Youth voice is important because people listen. It’s not everyday you see a kid speaking out, so Councilmember O’Brien encouraged us to keep it up,” said Kidist Mengitsu, 17.

"The council members need to hear our young voices if they would like to hear what really matters,” said Ephraim Nelson, 15, “it will help prepare for the future and with that, we can make the new generation better.”

As their capstone Take Action project, Seattle United Neighborhoods planned a successful night out event in South Seattle “to give young people something to do.”

"We did lots of blogging and community outreach. I learned that young people can change the community and make it a better world,” said Jordan Chambers, 16.

Jordan and other YTECH participants use Puget SoundOff.org, a local social networking site focused on social issues, to share their digital media creations, blog and connect with their peers. Puget SoundOff.org is funded in part by the City of Seattle’s Information Technology Department.

"These young people were able to use their creativity and digital media skills to spread awareness about issues that matter most to them, empowering them to choose issues they care about as they become adults.Having an outlet for young people to voice opinions is the best way to engage the next generation in making our communities a better place,” said Colleen McDevitt, YTECH digital literacy instructor.

YTECH is part of Washington state’s Communities Connect Network, a Broadband Technology Opportunity Program grant recipient for 2010-2012. BTOP funds made it possible for YTECH to expand its equipment inventory of laptops and cameras and travel outside of the city limits to offer digital literacy trainings.

"To bridge the digital divide, to be competitive and keep up with our changing economy, we must guide young people in using technology. They must be encouraged to engage in online environments and to create their own pieces of digital media,” said Roni Ayalla, YTECH project coordinator.

Follow more of YTECH’s work at youthandtech.wordpress.com.

group of library patrons at computer workstations

As of July 2011, the Texas State Library & Archives Commission has upgraded public computer centers at 11 libraries throughout the state. Known as the Technology Expertise, Access and Learning for all Texans (TEAL) project, this initiative is providing computer access and training opportunities for the state’s most underserved populations across 38 partnering library systems.

TEAL offers professional development webinars for library staff. These webinars provide librarians with tools and techniques to manage and promote computer resources, enabling libraries to better meet patrons’ technology needs. To date, TEAL has facilitated 10 webinars for approximately 744 library staff members, helping them improve their understanding of technology to boost sustainable broadband adoption. TEAL offers webinars on a variety of topics including a series on how to promote and teach computer technology with seniors and people with disabilities. TEAL also partnered with the Texas Workforce Commission to create a series of workforce skills webinars, teaching librarians how to help library patrons with their job searches and career development.

family picks up desktop computer from distribution truck

The School Board of Miami-Dade County launched the Learn Ideas, Navigate Knowledge (LINK) program in 35 low-income elementary, middle, and high schools across the Miami-Dade County Public Schools district. This program promotes broadband adoption among economically distressed populations by providing the necessary training and equipment to students and their families. The school board partners with non- and for-profit organizations to provide computers, Internet service, and multilingual digital literacy training to participating families.

The LINK program created an Introduction to Computers class through its partnership with The Parent Academy. Through this class, participants learn computer basics, Internet fundamentals, and how to use LINK’s Parent Portal. Once completed, participating families receive a free personal computer and access to its Parent Portal, an online tool that allows parents to view students’ grades and keep in contact with teachers. Additionally, a video of the Introduction to Computers class, available in English, Spanish, and Creole, is pre-loaded onto each computer along with anti-virus and word-processing software.

By the end of the project, the LINK program is expected to provide computers and Internet access to approximately 6,000 households.

entrance to a library

Montana State Library opened two new public computer centers at libraries in the cities of Butte and Billings. These centers support a statewide effort to provide affordable broadband, computer skills, and workforce development training to senior citizens, job seekers, and young adults. Each library provides new computers and digital literacy classes that are tailored specifically to the needs of its patrons.
In December 2010, damage from a fire caused the Butte-Silver Bow Public Library to close and open a temporary site in the Butte Plaza Mall. Along with traditional library services, visitors to the site can access broadband Internet on new laptops and workstations. Patrons also can attend a variety of digital literacy classes including computer basics, Internet fundamentals, and email techniques.

The temporary site, deemed the Library’s “South Branch,” was able to provide library services to its community members while the main branch underwent renovations. As of June 2011, more than 579 community members participated in the South Branch’s 53 digital literacy workshops and approximately 2,000 users each month utilize the new workstations. Additionally, a survey of visitors revealed a desire to make the facility permanent even after the main Butte-Silver library became fully operational. The Butte-Silver Library has been able to meet the needs of its community and keep computer centers at both libraries fully operational. The main library houses 10 new workstations and offers digital literacy trainings.

The Montana State University Billings College of Technology’s computer center offers 20 new laptops that patrons can use to search for jobs, learn computer basics, and work on school-related assignments. Visitors also can participate in digital literacy classes that cover topics such as computer basics and Microsoft Windows® software fundamentals. This community library is a joint academic-public library project between Montana State University and Parmly Billings Library.

The Montana State Library is working to provide more access to broadband Internet at faster speeds to 42 local libraries in 29 counties across the state within reach of 86 percent of Montana’s population. To sustain broadband adoption across the state, the project is deploying approximately 195 new computers and upgrading another 149 in 42 local libraries across 29 counties. As of June 2011, 328 new and refurbished computers have been distributed, serving more than 16,220 users per week. Participating libraries also partner with local organizations to create targeted marketing campaigns that will reach local constituents. For example, the Butte-Silver Bow Library partnered with AARP to promote its computer skills classes and increase participation among senior residents.

students taking a telemedicine course via video conferencing and a virtual dummy

In late 2010, Axiom Technologies, LLC launched sustainable broadband adoption programs to increase the utilization of technology in the healthcare, fishing, and farming industries in Washington County, Maine. These BTOP-funded programs are establishing the groundwork for defining new and innovative ways that broadband can improve production, service, and knowledge in each of these industries.

Healthcare
In November 2010, Axiom Technologies held a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Maine Fiber Company, a BTOP infrastructure grantee which is connecting the Central Maine Medical Center College of Nursing and Health Professions to a statewide fiber-optic network and announced new telemedicine learning capabilities. At the ceremony, both grantees announced new telemedicine learning capabilities. This faster network connection from the Maine Fiber Company will enable Axiom Technologies’ to help the College host video conferences with other state hospitals and learning institutions, so students can participate in remote distance learning. For instance, Axiom Technologies set up a similar remote learning program at the College of Nursing in Lewiston, Maine, where students can use video conferencing services to connect to the University of Maine in Machias and take their nursing pre-requisite classes. The College also set up video conferencing capabilities, allowing nurses and paramedics to view a more diverse range of medical cases than those available at the local community’s Down East Hospital.

Fishing and Farming
Axiom Technologies is working to build new applications that can help improve the use of land and water resources and increase business knowledge and productivity software for economic development purposes. In January 2011, Axiom Technologies provided 10 local farmers and 10 local fishermen with wireless equipment and rugged laptops as part of a pilot project that included 62 community members. Participants followed an online curriculum and were offered training assistance over the course of 11 weeks. The courses focused on building skills in Microsoft ® Office, QuickBooks, Adobe ® Photoshop, basic computer setup and maintenance, and other computer software. The 62 community members completed more than 1,500 hours of training in the 11 week period. As the project moves forward, Axiom Technologies will increase broadband connections in locations near farmers and fishermen, and will look to build industry-relevant applications and assist local industries with utilizing broadband for small businesses and economic development purposes.

group surrounding a computer workstation

In March 2011, the Center for Governmental Services at Auburn University, in partnership with Tuskegee University and the Alabama Public Library System, began upgrading and adding Internet workstations in schools and libraries throughout Alabama. This statewide initiative is designed to provide visitors with computer resources that they can use to search for jobs online, find career development materials, and apply for employment, training, or related assistance. Through the project, as of June 2011, 1,400 new workstations were distributed. These workstations serve an average of 29,300 students and library patrons per week at 66 public computing centers.

In many cases, these centers were using computers more than 10 years old. The response to receiving these new workstations from the librarians, patrons and students has been overwhelmingly positive. Community members use these new computers for schoolwork, jobs, and digital literacy training.

Auburn University is also providing training for library staff members. Librarians participate in webinars via Auburn University’s website and learn techniques for managing their new computer resources. By the end of the project, more than 130 locations in 55 counties throughout Alabama will receive $3.5 million worth of new computers and computer equipment.

instructor assists young student at computer

The City of Los Angeles is tackling 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 will develop or upgrade 183 public computer center sites throughout Los Angeles. Additionally, the City will purchase 2,600 new computers, in some cases, replacing those that were seven to 10 years old.

The City looked at demographic information such as high poverty and unemployment to determine where to place the new computer centers. For example, one site in the South Broadway neighborhood, originally an abandoned lot full of trash, now hosts the Chicana Services Action Center, including a 25-station public computer center and offering health screenings and job placement assistance. Approximately, one-third of the visitors to the center currently receive public assistance to take computer courses that will enable them to find work.

The LA CAN project expects to serve around 250,000 users each week, including students, job seekers, seniors, and English-as-a-second-language speakers, who use the centers to do homework, find work, learn new skills, and access other Internet-based services.

instructor assists computer users

The Youth Policy Institute (YPI) is working to open 80 computer centers in Los Angeles. Besides accessing computers and broadband Internet, visitors to the centers can attend a variety of digital literacy and educational classes, including computer basics, Internet fundamentals, English for Speakers of Other Languages, SAT preparation, Federal and state tax e-filing, and resume and cover letter techniques.

The centers’ main focus is to provide classes that meet the interests of the area’s low-income, Hispanic population. In response to poor literacy rates in the community, the center created the Leamos Spanish Literacy Program, which utilizes educational software to teach Latino immigrants basic computer skills as well as how to read and write in Spanish. A survey of local middle school students led to the creation of the Game Development Workshop, which teaches participants simple video game coding and design techniques. As of April 2011, more than 1,821 community members have participated in the center’s training classes. The center also houses a YPI workforce development program that is training clients for health careers.

The project also has a page on Facebook with the latest news.

Instructor leads a computer basics course

The New Jersey State Library (NJSL), an affiliate of Thomas Edison State College, has already enrolled more than 1,274 students in over 180 computer skills and workforce development workshops in public libraries across New Jersey. This statewide initiative is designed to provide workforce skills training to unemployed and underemployed residents and boost broadband adoption.

Targeted to New Jersey’s economically vulnerable residents, the workshops focus on teaching computer fundamentals, resume and cover letter techniques, job search fundamentals, and e-mail basics. Additionally, the program provides professional development workshops for library staff members. Librarians learn techniques for managing the computer resources, allowing them to better meet their patrons’ technology requests. The program has already conducted 33 workshops for its library staff and is partnering with a consortium of 19 New Jersey community colleges to provide instructors for these classes.

As of May 2011, the program distributed over 800 new computers to libraries across the state.

Louisiana jobs and career center logo

The State Library of Louisiana’s, “Louisiana Libraries: Connecting People to Their Potential,” has held more than 1,200 free digital literacy and software classes and will supply 640 laptop computers to libraries throughout the state by the end of 2011. With these efforts, the State Library seeks to improve the workforce skills of Louisiana citizens and provide a solid economic foundation for strengthening Louisiana communities.

The free classes offer provide workers and job seekers the technology skills needed to succeed in the digital economy, including professional-grade classes in the most widely used business software, such as Microsoft® Office, Adobe® Creative Suite, and Quicken®. Louisianans also can take business skills classes to improve their proficiency on topics like Getting Your Job Search Started, Mastering the Interview, and Business Etiquette. Additional training helps people make maximum use of technology with classes in Computer Foundations, Introduction to Home Wireless Setup, and Home Computer Security.

For more information about the organization and the project, please visit www.state.lib.la.us.

In addition to the classes, the State Library will deploy 10 Internet-ready laptops to each parish, so citizens can borrow them through their local library and connect to any hot spot to get online. The primary goal is to promote broadband use so that citizens may become comfortable and familiar with this technology. The State Library also created the Louisiana Jobs & Career Center website, www.lajacc.org, which offers career tools and displays searchable job postings for the public.

volunteers refurbish a computer

The Freedom Rings Partnership offers digital literacy and workforce training opportunities at computer centers in Philadelphia. The 77 computer centers include 19 recreation centers, 29 community-based organization sites working with high-risk populations, 10 homeless shelters, 15 other affordable housing sites, and four mobile labs that will reach communities lacking space or the capacity to house a computer center.

In addition to services provided at citywide computer centers, the Freedom Rings Partnership will encourage Philadelphians to “get connected” to technology in their homes. The participating partners expect to serve approximately 15,000 people per year and use a citywide outreach campaign to deliver information about the importance of broadband technology to more than 100,000 households.

instructor leading a computer class

The University of Minnesota Broadband Access Project (BAP) is a collaboration of 12 community organizations—four in St. Paul, three in South Minneapolis, and five in North Minneapolis—to expand access to high-speed Internet.

The organization has renovated 11 public computer sites and now offers training classes. The training classes at each site are targeted at a wide variety of groups including small/disadvantaged/minority-owned businesses, nonprofit organizations, individuals, and community groups. Currently, users can choose from training classes including introductory Internet classes, Microsoft Office® suite basics, job search help, resume building, and college prep. BAP staff develops additional courses as needs arise.

BAP helps a wide range of people from all age groups, unemployed and underemployed, immigrants, and refugees – develop important computer skills, search for jobs, and enhance their education. In addition, non-profits affected by significant levels of funding cuts will have the opportunity to support staff development and small business owners will learn how to use technology to increase their customer base through online promotions and other communications.

Middle School Students at a computer station

The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) and the New York City Department of Education (DOE) launched the NYC Connected Learning program in 56 low-income middle schools across New York City. The program is a citywide initiative to boost sustainable broadband adoption and enhance educational outcomes among sixth grade students and their families. DoITT and DOE partner with a range of non- and for- profit organizations to provide free computers, discounted broadband service, comprehensive digital literacy training, and technical support to participating families.

Computers for Youth (CFY), a national non-profit focused on improving the educational learning environments for low-income children, hosts Family Learning Workshops at these schools, teaching students and their parents about the educational uses of home technology and broadband. CFY also provides participants with a broadband-ready Home Learning Center, broadband enrollment guidance, and access to high-quality, online educational software focused on math, English, social studies, and science. The program’s professional development partners, Teaching Matters and the Australian United States Services in Education (AUSSIE), provide each school with an Instructional Technology Coach (ITC) responsible for training teachers to use computers to enhance classroom activities. The program also provides teachers with digital literacy curricula through its partnership with Common Sense Media. NYC Connected Learning partners with The City University of New York (CUNY) and MOUSE Squad to help schools set up a student-run help desk that provides technical support and general troubleshooting. NYC Connected Learning participants also receive discounted rates for high speed Internet from Cablevision and Time Warner Cable.

As of May 2011, approximately 13,832 students and family members have participated in the program. The program has subscribed 2,566 families to broadband, trained 360 students in MOUSE help desk operations, and trained 1,287 teachers in ITC courses. By the end of the project, the NYC Connected Learning program will be operational in 72 schools.

individuals in front of computer stations

Digital illiteracy is a barrier to community participation and family progress for many adults across the country. The Mexican Institute of Greater Houston (MIGH) addresses this digital divide and also focuses on populations with an added barrier: English is their second language. MIGH’s goal is to engage these populations, as well as improve broadband adoption rates in the Greater Houston, Beaumont, Dallas, and San Antonio areas through broadband outreach and training for Hispanic and minority communities. The project is utilizing its network of over 100 existing community centers, many located at K-12 public schools in the region, to conduct basic computer technology training sessions in Spanish for students and their families, as well as expanding the network to accommodate the program’s growth and development.

MIGH programs enrich the lives of Hispanic adults through education. Classes at Keeble Early Childhood/Pre-K Center began in February 2011. Students at the center are primarily young mothers who want to learn how to use computers. The skills learned in the class help the mothers participate more actively in their children’s education and develop their own lives. Any MIGH student can also go to the Mendenhall computer laboratory for courses in basic computer skills, such as how to use word processing software, navigate the Internet, and open an e-mail account.

Additionally, MIGH’s computer center open labs allow visitors to gain additional computer practice and knowledge. Instructors and tutors typically are selected from MIGH program graduates and receive additional instruction through program instructor/tutor classes. These individuals have the additional opportunity to apply their newly acquired skills to teaching others. One former student is a teacher by trade but her disability made it difficult for her to find a job. She has enthusiastically enrolled to receive training to become a MIGH on-line tutor. These are just a few of the many success stories from MIGH’s training classes, where students are gaining marketable workforce skills.

man and woman seated at a computer

The Central Coast Broadband Consortium Public Computing Alliance, led by the Monterey County Office of Education, is working to open three new public computer centers, improve 26 existing centers, and offer free digital literacy training to residents of California’s Salinas River Valley region. The Alliance, made up of education organizations, libraries, and other community organizations, hopes that improved broadband access will help address the needs of an area where over half of the population speaks a language other than English at home, and high school graduation rates are low.

On May 4, 2011, Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue joined the Alliance to celebrate the reopening of the Chinatown Community Learning Center. The Center’s 16 lab stations are used to provide free training classes to the community. Classes include an introduction to the digital world as well as classes for Spanish speakers and job seekers. The Center also offers classes for the local homeless population. Students say the Center feels like a community and that classes are creating opportunities for them, helping them to advance and rejoin the workforce.

The Alliance’s primary public computer center is located at the Media Center for Art, Education and Technology (MCAET) in Salinas. In addition, MCAET is launching a mobile digital classroom in September 2011. The semi-tractor trailer truck will travel throughout the Salinas Valley to provide digital media and computer classes to students of all ages. Additional public computer centers and community partners offer training including basic computer and Internet skills, word processing, animation, web design, digital photography, and audio and video production.