Monday, July 28, 2014

GUEST COMMENTARY: We Need Your Help Today to Close the Digital Divide in Kansas City

Publisher's Note: Below is a guest commentary about the digital divide in Kansas City. This is an important issue in Wyandotte County and I feel its message needs a platform. 

KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- At Connecting for Good, our core belief is that connectivity equals opportunity.

Access to the Internet brings with it a chance to apply for jobs online, connections with family and friends, access to virtual library shelves, information about medical and health issues, online education – GED completion and college courses – and a whole lot more.

These are resources with the potential to help an under resourced family move toward a healthier, happier and more secure future.

Unfortunately, there are thousands of low income families in our city who are not able to get online.  Mostly it's because they can't afford a computer or Internet service.  For many, especially older adults, it's a matter of intimidation - simply not knowing how get online or how use the Internet.

That's why we have been working to bridge the Digital Divide since 2011 with wireless networks, low cost refurbished PCs and free digital life skills classes.

In the Kansas City metro area, we operate two community technology centers, one on each side of the Kansas/Missouri state line. To extend our outreach, we take our mobile  computer training lab to sites all over the the city.  Our goal is to see that everyone who wants to get online can, regardless of their age, income or disability.

We work to lower the entry point to becoming a productive participant in the online world.Inthe past year, nearly 1,500 people in under served inner city neighborhoods participated in our free digital life skills classes.

Everyone who completes the sessions learns to set up an email account and to use Internet search engines to find the information they need online.  Those who qualify as low income can then get a high quality refurbished PC for as low as $50.00.

We also help people find an affordable Internet service provider. And, we actually provide a free in-home Wi-Fi connection to about 500 households In three low income housing facilities.

Learning these basic technology skills and getting an inexpensive PC truly changed the life of a young woman named Sarah. She was a 23 year old single mother who was living on public assistance with two children when we first met her. Knowing she wasn’t providing for her children, she struggled with self-esteem and hopelessness.

With minimal education, no marketable job skills or computer knowledge she was going nowhere fast. Over a period of several months, this young lady attended our basic classes and learned how to use a computer for the first time.

Because of her limited income, it took Sarah four months to pay for her $50 refurbished computer. She did it by taking on odd jobs to earn the money. During this time, we provided her with one-on-one assistance to learn how to apply for jobs and to develop a top notch resume. She also asked for our help with interviewing skills and choosing appropriate attire.

The good news is that she did get an office job and then a promotion within six months of being hired. Besides moving from public assistance to a career, Sarah also completed her GED and is taking college courses on line. All of this happened within the span of just nine months!

Here's a little more information about who we are reaching:

  • 25% have never used a computer
  • 75% are over 50 years old
  • 80% are minorities, predominantly African American
  • 75% have incomes of under $20,000 a year
  • 90% purchased a computer from us after their taking free classes
  • 2/3 of participants in the free classes are women
  • 1/2 of women 60+ have a child under 18 living with them

To keep providing these services, Connecting for Good needs your help now to keep our staff members working in the community!

We are in the midst of a summer cash flow crunch and need 100 friends to donate $50 to help us through this challenging time.

Won't you take a few moments to get involved and share about our efforts with your friends?

Together, we can keep changing lives in Kansas City's urban core by lowing the barriers to becoming a productive digital citizen.

For more information, visit Connecting for Good's fundraising page here.