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Effective initiatives: US

These twelve initiatives-- six for the U.S. and six for the UK-- have been particularly effective in encouraging internet/e-government use by people who had not previously accessed them. Each promoted e-government or had distinctive features. See the project reports below for more details.

US Initiatives

Computers for Families--Santa Barbara, CA

Download the full Computers for Families PDF

The Computers for Families program provides refurbished computers and discounted internet access to fourth-graders from low-income families to use at home. Families receive basic training on computers and the internet, including technical support. Teachers whose students have received computers can get extensive training and support. By providing access at home, the program intends to lessen the digital divide and overcome a major barrier to student achievement. In addition, the project partners with the county probation department to teach families how to use technology and to involve young offenders in refurbishing and upgrading donated computers. The initiative is a partnership between Santa Barbara Partners in Education and the Santa Barbara County Education Office. Partners in Education is a nonprofit organization of community leaders (business, industry, government, schools) who are committed to making a difference in education and the community at large. The group includes the superintendents of all the school districts in the immediate area.

Computers for Homebound and Isolated Persons--Knoxville, TN

Download the Computers for Homebound and Isolated Persons PDF

The Computers for Homebound and Isolated Persons (CHIPS) program provides computers, free internet access, and extensive training and support to homebound people, including people with disabilities, seniors, and their caregivers in Knox County, East Tennessee. The key to the program is the volunteer mentors who teach computer and internet skills. The program aims to decrease social exclusion and isolation by connecting participants with their communities using the internet.

The Office on Aging (the county's primary social services agency) is a major program partner. In addition to referring seniors to the CHIPS program, office staff are responsible for meeting the needs of qualifying seniors. CHIPS staff focus on the technology and mentor training. In addition to reducing social isolation, program staff are working to raise seniors' awareness of online government services, including Social Security and Medicare. Seniors have used their new skills (e.g., using email, discussion lists, and the internet) to communicate with friends and family, make new friends, access information online including e-government, and contact organizations that support their conditions. CHIPS is run by East Tennessee's community website portal DiscoverET.org. The group is an authorized Microsoft refurbisher, which allows staff to install Windows on donated computer systems.

Digital Sisters - Washington, DC

Download the Digital Sisters PDF

Digital Sisters, Inc. is a nonprofit technology social services agency that uses technology to provide self-sufficiency skills to women and children who have traditionally been underserved. A goal of the organization is to close the gender gap in technology literacy and education. Increasing opportunities through technology is the key to participants gaining or improving self-sufficiency. Participants build life skills by participating in various types of technology-based training. The program predominantly targets low-income families, particularly single and young mothers and their children. Participants have also included domestic violence survivors, ex-offenders, and people with disabilities. Half the classes are offered to women and girls only. Activities include hands-on experiences in the computer lab, guest speakers, and field trips. Content is customized to the participants. In addition to job training, Digital Sisters provides financial literacy classes and technical assistance.

E-Rutherford--Rutherford County, NC

Download the E-Rutherford PDF

The eRutherford initiative aims to increase residents' access to computers and the internet, including online government services, focusing on seniors, low-income families, rural residents, and people who had traditionally been underserved. The ultimate goal is to stimulate economic and workforce development throughout the county. This effort is part of a larger grassroots initiative called e-North Carolina (e-NC), the goal of which is to bring residents awareness, access, and use of the internet and e-government.

Guided by a county Economic Development staff person, a volunteer group representing all sections of the community started several activities. This group has worked with local internet service providers to improve internet connectivity, especially to very rural areas, and to address affordability, a major barrier to access. The group opened 18 public internet access locations, some of which provide free digital literacy training. The committee has also worked with local government to develop and maintain a government website and to educate residents about the range of local government services available online.

HousingWorks--Boston, MA

Download the HousingWorks PDF

The HousingWorks website and database provide information on affordable housing throughout Massachusetts as well as other housing resources for consumers and their advocates. The goal is to reduce or eliminate barriers to subsidized, affordable, and special-needs housing. The tool benefits affordable housing providers, who can use it to advertise available units. Public policy and planning bodies also benefit by learning what to build and where. Consumers can access the website and database at any social service agency, housing provider, library, school, health center, or state agency that has a public computer and a support staff person. In addition, HousingWorks offers online and phone help on using the website.

Paid staff and volunteers run the project, but the system is designed so that consumers and providers maintain the information. Therefore, the project focuses all its attention on maintaining the hardware and developing/simplifying the product. The model places oversight agencies, for-profit management companies, housing authorities, housing advocates, and homeless people in a position to render indispensable services to each other.

Project T.E.C.H.--Los Angeles, CA

Download the Project T.E.C.H. PDF

Project T.E.C.H. provides computer and internet access as well as training to community residents, encouraging them to get involved in community efforts and access government information and services. The primary objectives are to overcome digital barriers ("high tech") and to connect program participants to their neighborhoods ("high touch"). Project T.E.C.H. offers a wide variety of training, ranging from a basic introduction to computers and the internet (taught in both English and Spanish), including online government services, to more advanced options. In addition, the program helps with tax preparation and financial literacy training. Project T.E.C.H. serves a predominately African-American and Latino population that includes seniors and people with developmental disabilities. The project is co-located at two community centers-- the South Seas House and the Tom Bradley Youth and Family Center--which helps staff meet the needs of the respective areas. The majority of participants live in the neighborhoods surrounding the two community centers.

ICI: promoting inclusion for people with disabilities