ellohay! West Michigan

A Conversation with the Macatawa Media Center

Posted in benchmarks, conversations, players, research, sustainability by forgr on December 13, 2008

I hadn’t forgotten about my conversation with Barb Pyle from the Macatawa Media Center, honestly. I met with her back in early May in their office on E 19th Street in Holland. We discussed their current computer refurbishing program, their television and production programs, and outreach programs.

Barb was very interested in what we are starting here in the Grand Rapids area, and wanted to know how we planned on cultivating and maintaining a genuinely sustainable “business”.

If by sustainable, she’s asking if we might have the capacity to preserve a complex set of programs (earn-a-laptop, digital literacy, technical support) indefinitely, then we’re on the right path.

If being sustainable means promoting stable and healthy communities, restoring environmental quality, and increasing long-term profitability, then yes we’re pointed in the right direction.

We have a lot of planning to do, but if we at least if know what we want and what’s important to us, that brings us closer to determining how we plan on getting it, and knowing once we have it.

Thank you Barb.

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UK study says digital inclusion makes people more confident

Posted in data, education, good news, membership benefits, research by forgr on October 10, 2008

Google Reader brought great news to me this morning in the form of an article from 24dash.com titled “New research links digital inclusion and social impact”. Yes, you read it correctly. An excerpt,

More than 12,000 people took part in the social impact demonstrator projects between January 2007 and March 2008. By the end of the project, participants were more likely to feel confident, and 40% had progressed into further training, employment, information, advice and guidance.

Working with the computers helped to improve people’s maths and English, and they were more likely to spend time with friends and family, and more likely to connect with and help out in their communities.

Published by Hannah Wooderson for 24dash.com in Communities, Wednesday 8th October 2008 – 3:38pm.

So in other words, this is really good news. It proves what I’ve been (just) insisting over the last 10 months. And yes, it’s just the beginning, I’m sure there will be ongoing studies to discover the long term impact, and more studies that out-right contradict it. However this is one more juicy juicy morsel that will help convince future partners, collaborators and potential funders that what we’re doing is good for our community.

Keep it coming, we need all the proof we can get.

We did it!

Posted in breakthrough, donations, feedback, surveys by forgr on September 26, 2008

Yesterday we reached our first fund-raising goal of $140 through fundable.com (the third time’s the charm!).

We are all so grateful for your contributions. Fundable.com isn’t perfect (long load time, errors) but it’s been a HUGE help. Thank you for sticking with it and with us. Be sure to drop them a note and let them know what kind of trouble you experienced on their website.

We’re one step closer towards making positive differences in the lives of under-served individuals through connections with technology, and assisting them in creating a lasting, healthy and meaningful bond with these tools in their community.

We’re going to give ChipIn a try for our next collection and see how they compare… please stay tuned.

If you have a moment to spare, we’d really like your opinion on our future name, tagline and url. Please take our super-short (one question!) survey here at surveymonkey.com () and we’ll share the results one week from now here at the forgr.wordpress.com blog.

THANK YOU again for helping us reach our goal. It is so very lovely of you all!

(Photo from flickr-user gaetan lee, for use under creative commons license)

Article: Was EarthLink’s failed citywide Wi-Fi a blessing in disguise?

Posted in benchmarks, potential problems, wifi by forgr on September 7, 2008

A recent article from Tirana Magazine on Philadelphia’s wi-fi network, the Wireless Philadelphia organization and doing a really solid job on…

Defining the digital divide

There’s been a lot of chatter over the years about the digital divide or the idea that there is a great chasm between people who have access to technology such as computers and the Internet, and those who do not. While some 68 percent of the U.S. population has access to the Internet via broadband or dial-up connections, there are still millions of people across the country who do not have any access at all.

Overwhelmingly, these unconnected individuals tend to be minorities and people with low education levels. A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that only 57 percent of African Americans and 37 percent of Hispanics have Internet access. And only 29 percent of people who have not graduated from high school are connected to the Internet.

It’s difficult to gauge what the impact of this exclusion means. In the past, Internet access was viewed as an unnecessary luxury, a tool used to send e-mail and casually surf Web sites. But increasingly, the Internet has become an important tool for getting information about and access to just about everything from health care to social services. It’s used as a tool to engage parents in their children’s education. And as newspapers shed their classified listings, it’s become an important tool for looking for jobs.

“Digital inclusion has traditionally been seen as a charity initiative,” The Knight Foundation’s Perry said. “But that is rapidly changing. Increasingly, cities of all types–urban, suburban, and rural–are linking universal digital access to economic development imperatives.”

From the beginning, Wireless Philadelphia’s goal has been to provide broadband service to families who have never owned a computer and have little or no online experience. The group believes that getting these families online will increase their access to educational, employment, and life opportunities.

But it will also have big benefits for the city, such as reducing crime and unemployment, improving public health and social service efficiency, and increasing educational excellence.

“It’s nearly impossible to apply for an entry-level job today without having basic digital skills and Internet access,” Greg Goldman, CEO of Wireless Philadelphia said. “And there have been studies that show patients who access information online about HIV AIDS, hypertension, or diabetes have better health outcomes.”

We’ll find out what happens next quite soon…

Hey. Hi. Hello.

Posted in breakthrough by forgr on July 20, 2008

My name is Marie-Claire. I started writing here, back in February of this year, about people’s lives and how they are (and could be) impacted by technology (computers, access) and community.

There were several meaningful conversations with community leaders, there were great stories, there were genuine successes.

Then I took a break in engaging with it. I originally took a break to write independently and get the ducks in a row, but then life happened. There were health problems, there was bad timing, there were a lot of crummy things that made things complicated for me personally. Life happened.

But now that I’m ready to give my time back to this project, I can see that IT never really stopped at all, the thoughts here never took a break, this project kept going without me pushing it. That’s how I know that it’s meaningful, and that caring about other people’s connectivity is not something that I hold by writing in a blog, it’s something that belongs to the community. I has legs, it’s bigger than I am.

Kimberly

Kimberly and the laptop.

While I was writing and planning, then dealing with the unexpected, people were still being touched. I got four emails, a phone call and several personal inquiries during the time that I was away. People were not only engaged, but concerned. People were worried that the project was going to stop.

“What’s going on with that project?” or, “What’s the next step?” and, “How is it working so far?”

To answer your questions in front of everyone: It’s not stopping. It’s going to keep going. It’s bigger than a single person. And you can help.

In one person’s opinion, all I’ve been is a lot of talk and little action. I’d like to change.

Stay tuned for a new leaf, and some fresh faces.

A few next steps, growth

Photo from flickr-user akaporn, for use under creative commons license

Photo from flickr-user akaporn, for use under creative commons license

1.) Finalize project name

2.) Get feedback on mission statement, problem statements, finalize mission statement

3.) Post draft of Executive Statement, get feedback

4.) Write out plans for involvement with community partners

5.) Finalize and Print out finished Executive Statement, supporting diagrams and materials

6.) Start writing grants

7.) Schedule time to meet with Comprenew to discuss pilot program

8.) Schedule time to meet with WMCAT to discuss pilot program

9.) Schedule time to meet with Community Media Center to discuss pilot program

10.) Schedule time to meet with Grand Rapids Public School representatives to discuss pilot program

11.) Schedule time to meet with other important community partners

12.) Write memorandums of understanding for potential partnerships

13.) Breathe.

14.) Determine next steps again