Transforming KC’s Urban Core with Technology

MARCH 31, 2014

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Every afternoon our computer lab is filled with people from Juniper Gardens

Every afternoon our computer lab is filled with people from Juniper Gardens

Connecting for Good provides free Internet to over 500 households at three different low income housing complexes. And this year, we are on track to get over 2,000 high quality refurbished computers for as low as $75.00 to qualified low income people. But all is only a part of what we do.

The third very important piece is education. We are helping people, especially first-time Internet users, become productive digital citizens. Last year over 1,000 people in Kansas City’s urban core learned how to send email and browse the Internet in our free digital life skills classes. For them, getting these skills – and getting them quickly – is nearly a matter of survival in our information society. To learn about employment, educational opportunities, affordable housing, social services, and decent medical care, the basic skills needed to use the Internet are a must.

Reaching out to urban youth is becoming an important part of what we do. Every afternoon, our new community technology center in Kansas City, KS is filled with children and teens from the housing project. They are using web sites they learned about in school but couldn’t access at home without a computers.

This summer, we are offering internships to young people who will work with us in teaching adults, children and senior citizens how to use computers and the Internet. Other young interns will be gaining new skills while serving their community by working in our PC refurbishing operations. They will help us take donated computer equipment and turn it into high quality, low cost PCs. We are also planning a summer program that involves young people in working with us to extend the wireless network to bring inexpensive Internet to more neighborhoods in Kansas City’s east side.

In Kansas City, MO, nearly 18,000 children are attend school in a district that has lost its accreditation. 70% of these school kids do not have an Internet connection at home. This is a real problem that should not be ignored because it puts them on such an uneven playing field academically.

Teens use the PCs at our KCK Community Technology Center

Teens use the PCs at our KCK Community Technology Center

At Connecting for Good, we are focused on long-term systemic change in communities that have been deprived of the benefits of technology. The Digital Divide really is just the same old social, racial, economic and political divide that has kept urban core residents so under resourced. Today, however, being technology-deprived puts people in under resourced communities at an even greater disadvantage.

While the Kansas City area is becoming a thriving tech center, most new workers in technology companies are coming from out-of-town. We want to change that by offering programs that get urban young people interested in technology-related careers.

We are linking arms with civic leaders and community activists in as many sectors as we can. And, at every turn, individual citizens are encouraged to participate – if not financially, then with time and talent. Empowerment through technology is our motto. Ultimately, our vision is to raise up the corps of urban technologists whose skills and resources will transform Kansas City’s urban core.

Written by Tom Esselman

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