ellohay! West Michigan

Tech and what makes us tick

Posted in breakthrough, discovery stages, logic by forgr on August 3, 2008

Technology can be intimidating.

Trying to understanding technology by ourselves can be intimidating.

Most individuals avoid people, places, and things that are scary.

Avoiding something is a way to protect oneself from harm.

If we fear technology, we will avoid technology for as long as we can.

Avoiding technology is very difficult, it’s everywhere because it is effective.

Personal computers are very helpful tools.

Many tasks in the workplace, and in our personal lives are computer-based tasks.

If we understand what makes a piece of advanced technology a helpful tool, we are more likely to make room for it in our lives.

Relying on someone else to provide education and support is very common.

Many people who have home computers now, rely on a kind neighbor, relative, or friend to help them trouble shoot and fix their computers.

Most companies have tech support resources at their disposal, and rely on them to troubleshoot or fix computers, but their company pays for the service.

New technology is very complicated to understand.

The fast pace of innovation is difficult to keep up with.

If a person misses out on some new technology paradigm, it is often difficult to catch up later.

Not knowing something that everybody else seems to know is often embarrassing and overwhelming.

It is difficult to avoid technology as it becomes more and more prevalent in our everyday lives.

Many of us use a computer at work.

Many of us use a computer everyday.

New computers are expensive.

Used computers are affordable, but often unreliable.

Affording any computer is difficult, and there are usually other necessities that take precedence.

Computers make our lives easier overall.

Everyone deserves to be on a level playing field.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to have access to common tools.

Many of us, because of our financial status, do not have equal and meaningful exposure to technology.

Those of us that can afford new technology, have an upper hand.

Understanding how to use computers can make us more efficient in our daily tasks.

Abundant information is available online to learn new skills, and understand the world around us.

If we can be more efficient and more intelligent, we can potentially get better, more high paying jobs, and our quality of life will improve.

If we know how to use technological tools, we have a greater opportunity to get higher grades in school, which leads to great opportunities for college and education.

Having access to the internet and the tools to digest the information available online is beneficial to us.

Having access to the internet allows us to research, purchase items, sell items, publish information, digest information and communicate efficiently.

Having access to the internet allows us to communicate with one another in high volumes, in many different ways, over long distances, and at a low cost.

If we are exposed to each others cultures through sharing information on the internet, we can understand each other better.

If we are able to express ourselves through digital means in high volumes, in many different ways, over long distances, and at a low cost, those who did not have a voice previously can now be heard.

Advertisements

A Conversation with Bill Hill, veteran librarian, Grand Rapids Public Library

Posted in conversations, feedback, planning, players by forgr on March 31, 2008

On Friday, March 21st, I caught a quick lunch with Bill Hill from the Grand Rapids Public Library. I had contacted him about a week or so ago prior inquiring about the Public Library’s computer usage. I asked really specific questions in an email:

• Who are your internet station patrons? And if you were to speculate, why are they there?
• What are your hopes for the community and each citizen’s involvement with the technology?
• What are the library’s largest technological pain points?
• How many people log on to internet stations per day?
• What are your peak usage times during the week, the weekend?
• What is your itrain class attendance like for each session?
• If there was one thing that would boost your class attendance, (if that’s what you want) what would it be?
• What’s missing in the community, what’s the largest need?

So, when I finally met with Bill, he expressed that answers to most of these questions are not available. They keep the program moving, and continue to upgrade their machines because their mission is to provide the means for the community to learn about themselves and their world. The internet, like books, magazines, and movies is another tool to aid in this goal. They dont track usage, they don’t have any real analytics programs keeping track of things.

They only count the number of sessions and unique page visits.

Bill also told he about himself, his involvement with the library and various programs he’s involved with there, this one, this one, this one among others. I initially wanted to talk with him because he’s lived in this city for quite some time, he’s worked at the library for years, and he’s actively engaged in the community at many levels.

I told him about our project, about the parts, pieces, people and plans. He listened, soaked it all in, asked a few questions.

He then gave some of the first negative feedback our project has received. He described many efforts that the community had tried to start up, and subsequently failed at, namely open computer labs. He expressed that it was likely than individuals would steal machines, sell them and then come back for more. He warned that I might be too optimistic, and to keep a realistic head on my shoulders throughout the project.

But it didn’t get me down. I knew going in that it was going to be rough. I know that there are going to be problems. All the more reason to try it, give it a genuine run, and see what happens. We’ll never know until we try.

As we wrapped up our lunch, I had asked him if he would be willing to stay in the conversation, and he said sure, but might better be able to help me by assisting with initial grant writing exercises.

A little bit ago, Bill emailed me following up afterwards,

>     I enjoyed meeting you very much, but I fear I left you with more of a
>     negative reaction than I felt or intended. Your mission to help less
>     advantaged folks gain more independence is sacred stuff.  I admire
>     your passion for this work, and hope I will be able to contribute something
>     from the library.

And then in another email said this,

>     We share much the same goal, to empower people by giving them free
>     access to information, and we do offer classes on using the internet and
>     word processing, although our next round of those wont arrive till
>     Fall.  You take it a step further than we ever will be able to, by
>     wanting to provide your clients with their own laptops. But our goals
>     have much in common overall.

Very nice conversation and correspondence, and just the right touch of reality to keep me fighting for this project.

Thank you Bill for the conversation, and I hope to talk with you soon about grants, and the future.

Collapsing Benchmarks?

Posted in benchmarks, potential problems, wifi by forgr on March 24, 2008

New York Times: Hopes for Wireless Cities Fade as Internet Providers Pull Out

“EarthLink announced on Feb. 7 that ‘the operations of the municipal Wi-Fi assets were no longer consistent with the company’s strategic direction.’ Philadelphia officials say they are not sure when or if the promised network will now be completed.

For Cesar DeLaRosa, 15, however, the concern is more specific. He said he was worried about his science project on global warming.

‘If we don’t have Internet, that means I’ve got to take the bus to the public library after dark, and around here, that’s not always real safe,’ Cesar said, seated in front of his family’s new computer in a gritty section of Hunting Park in North Philadelphia. His family is among the 1,000 or so low-income households that now have free or discounted Wi-Fi access through the city’s project, and many of them worry about losing access that they cannot otherwise afford.”

“Back in Philadelphia, Cesar’s older sister, Tomasa DeLaRosa, said she had faith that city officials would find a way to finish the network and keep her Internet service going.

‘Our whole house is totally different now,’ said Ms. DeLaRosa, 19, who had never had Internet access at home until last December because she could not afford it.

After signing up for a job training program and completing its course work, Ms. DeLaRosa received a free laptop, training and a year’s worth of free wireless service from Esparanza, a community group.

Greg Goldman, chief executive of Wireless Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization that was set up as part of the city’s deal with EarthLink, said that about $20 million had already been spent on the network, and only about $4 million more would be needed to cover the rest of the city.

Mr. Goldman’s organization is responsible for providing bundles that include a free laptop, Internet access, training and technical support to organizations like Esparanza so they can use them as incentives for their low-income clients like Ms. DeLaRosa to complete job training and other programs.

‘For us and a lot of people in this neighborhood,’ Ms. DeLaRosa said, ‘the Internet is like a path out of here.'”

Digital Inclusion in SFGTV, video

Posted in benchmarks, education by forgr on March 2, 2008

Notes:

• Important to have access to high speed internet
• Need to have knowledge to use those tools effectively
• Understand the value of a computer
• We want the digital inclusion task force to make sure that we address the needs of undeserved vulnerable communities, not communities that are already very tech saavy
• People don’t know that these computers are available to them
• They don’t know what is useful
• There are so many businesses in the area that are constantly retiring their computer equipment that’s perfectly good for home use
• Computers and internet access are helping everyone in the community
• Barriers, confusion, intimidation, not having anyone in their peer network that uses computers in their lives
• Immigrants are able to communicate with their families at home
• Able to receive news and information in their own language
• Connected with the world, and connected with their local communities
• If we value the diversity of our city, and value the diverse neighborhoods in our city, we need to insure that they remain economically viable. Equipping residents with jobs in those areas is critical to them.
• Workers with more education in this area are more likely to be working in the technology sector. They are going to need familiarity in that area, they are going to find value in it and they are going to use it and be produce with it every day.
• The other half of that population is disconnected from that opportunity and that prosperity.
• Content is essential
• We have to blend community network and computer equipment, with training and support. If we can pull all that together then we’ve got it.
• It’s more about social and economic justice than just technology

TechConnect (San Francisco)

Posted in benchmarks, education by forgr on February 29, 2008

The TechConnect Digital Inclusion initiative is a set of programs to help all San Franciscans access technology to improve their lives.

TechConnect’s Digital Inclusion programs provide ways for San Franciscans to more easily obtain a computer for their home, as well as the technology training and support needed to use it effectively. TechConnect also seeks to increase the availability of culturally relevant Internet content and applications.

From the TechConnect website:

Implementation Approach
The principles underlying the implementation of the San Francisco Digital Inclusion Program are to:

·      Engage the community in a community driven planning and implementation process.

·      Leverage existing community, governmental and business resources whenever possible.
Include measurable outcomes and indicators of success.

In less than a decade, the Internet has radically changed how people communicate, seek employment, and access services, education and entertainment. Students use the Internet for research and to create new works of all types. Businesses use the Internet to extend their service offerings, improve customer service and improve their bottom lines.  Governments at all levels find new ways to harness the Internet to improve the delivery of public services.  Nonprofits and community based organizations are using the Internet to better reach out to their constituencies and fulfill their social missions.

Enhanced Digital Literacy Programs
·      Relevant, Multi-language Internet Content and Online Services such as the promotion of multi-lingual web portals, promotion of community based web sites, content development training programs, and new collaborations across San Francisco’s communities.

Possible Strategies:
·      Implement communications programs to increase awareness of programs that collect, refurbish, distribute and sell used computers to underserved communities.

·      Develop low or no-interest computer purchase program that enables qualifying low-income residents to purchase new PCs (desktops and laptop computers) and supporting equipment (printers, Customer Premise Equipment) for a low monthly cost ($25-$60) over a 1-3 year loan term and required computer training.  The City will partner with technology vendors and financial institutions to implement this program.  The City will seek to partner with the Unified School District and local nonprofits to distribute the computers and provide training.

·      Organize technology fairs in the City’s most underserved neighborhoods where participants will be able to sign up for the computer purchase programs, vendors can provide information about purchasing computers, networking equipment and other internet devices; and refurbished computer providers will be able to collect donated equipment, provide information about or possibly even sell refurbished computers onsite.

·      Provide education and information about buying a computer and available resources for purchasing low-cost hardware on the digital inclusion program website and provide written materials at community events and technology support centers.

·      Facilitate partnerships between device and application providers (e.g.: Nokia, Skype) with nonprofits and schools to introduce new devices and applications for underserved communities.