Winter 2004-2005

Sharing Lessons and Solutions from The Children's Partnership
Public Policy, Online Content, and Research to Expand Community Access to Digital Opportunities
by Wendy Lazarus and Laurie Lipper
Public Policy

Connecting local leaders to a national network

Many of the most innovative digital opportunity policies are happening in states and cities across the country. In order to accelerate the spread of promising policies and key strategies and to help foster a group of leaders on community technology policy, The Children’s Partnership organized an informal group of key leaders involved in local policy efforts. We convened these leaders via phone in late November February to talk about public policy efforts priorities in 2004. and then again in November to talk about progress made.

Over the past year, both states and cities have taken action to create high-speed Internet infrastructures, both landline and wireless. Highlights of this work include Louisiana’s plans to spend $40 million on expanding Internet access, and Michigan has already issued approximately $4.1 million in low-interest loans to broadband companies. Similarly, numerous municipalities have developed wi-fi hotspots; while others, such as Los Angeles, New York, and St. Louis, are developing plans to create wi-fi zones. In addition, many rural communities, tired of waiting for the major telecommunications companies to build out a broadband infrastructure, are taking matters into their own hands. Cities such as Provo, Utah, and Danville, Virginia, are in the process of rolling out their own municipal broadband infrastructures. All of this effort toward developing a broadband infrastructure creates an opportunity for community technology programs to tap into this network. A summary report of these initiatives will appear on early in 2005.

Preserving Discounts for High-Speed Internet Access in After-School and Other Youth Programs

The California Teleconnect Fund (CTF) is a public program that provides a 50% discount on advanced telecommunications services and helps save after-school programs and other community-based organizations significant money on their telecommunications costs. At the beginning of 2004, an 86% reduction was recommended in CTF’s budget. Through a year-long effort working as part of the California Community Technology Policy Group (CCTPG), a coalition of more than 200 nonprofit community organizations), the legislature passed a bill — which the Governor signed — to restore the funding for these vital discounts.

Online Content for Low-Income and Underserved Users

Disseminating news relevant to online content for underserved audiences

The Children’s Partnership continues to report on and advocate for content that is relevant and useful to low-income or other underserved users. We have introduced the Contentbank Newsblast, a weekly e-mail news service designed for community and public interest leaders who want to stay informed about developments in the field of content for low-income Internet users. It covers news stories about online translation tools, Web accessibility for users with disabilities, e-government services, and more. In addition to disseminating content-related news to subscribers via e-mail, we have built an extensive news archive on Contentbank, searchable by both topic and date, where one can easily subscribe to Newsblast. This virtual clearinghouse of information highlights timely issues and trends in areas such as broadband, search engine development, multilingual capabilities, and more.

Developing original blogging curriculum for youth
HarlemLive blogging workshop

Karen Roberts, Tech Program Associate, TCP (standing) with Yafreici Peralta, student (seated)
at the HarlemLive blogging workshop

Last year, TCP staff developed a blogging workshop and presented it to a group of young people at the HarlemLive, an after-school program in Harlem. According to Rich Calton, founder and director of HarlemLive, “Having folks from The Children’s Partnership come to HarlemLive and work directly with the teens was invaluable. The teens now have another avenue by which to express themselves. We plan to use the Weblogging workshop from The Children’s Partnership as part of our orientation for all new members.” The workshop was so well received that we transformed it into a curriculum for youth, which will be available on Contentbank in early 2005.

Research Preview

Conducting research to examine the benefits of technology to youth

  • In 1994, 39% of U.S. households with children had a personal computer; by 2002, 62% had Internet access.

Wouldn't it be exciting if candidates running for office spoke about what they would do for community technology once they were elected? Wouldn't it also be exciting if you could actually vote for a candidate that pledges to support community technology like funding a pot of money for community technology programs?

For community technology to get to this stage requires getting our issues on candidates' radar screen. To move us in that direction, the California Community Technology Policy Group (CCTPG), The Children’s Partnership, Community Partners, and CTCNet joined forces to initiate a California- and national-based civic engagement project to involve people with the election through technology and to inform candidates about issues surrounding youth and technology. The project educates
future policy makers (candidates for elective office) about what community technology is adn the policies that support it; demonstrate how community technology programs can help promote civic participation; and get on record the positions of future policy makers on community technology.

  • In 1994, 3% of public school classrooms had Internest access; by 2002, 92% had Internet access.

  • 74% of online teens now use instant messaging.

While these statistics speak to the extraordinary expansion of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), they don’t help us answer questions about whether or in what ways this “tech explosion” is benefi ting young Americans. For community technology to get to this stage requires getting our issues on candidates' radar screen.

To focus attention on these key questions, The Children’s Partnership is conducting original research and analysis to be released in 2005. The study will bring together the best existing evidence of the extent to which ICT delivers better opportunities and outcomes to young people in Educational Achievement, Healthier Life Choices, Economic Advancement, and Civic Participation. Based on this research, this report will also include an “index,” or measuring stick, to help set a course for how best to invest in ICT with the aim of creating meaningful opportunities — especially for young people most at risk of being left behind. As always, The Children’s Partnership is working closely with a group of leading national experts to develop the index and accompanying recommendations. You can sign up to receive e-mail notice when the report is released.

Wendy Lazarus and Laurie Lipper are Founders and Co-Presidents of The Children's Partnership.


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