Monday, March 16, 2009

Public Comment, BTOP Grants

In response to the open comments period at NTIA regarding the BTOP grants, I have submitted the following comment. Also have been working with Emy Tseng and David Keys (SF and Seattle) on Emy's two minute presentation for later today...Apologies to my friends at Libraries and Community Colleges, this is in no way a slam for the work you do, simply an expansion of the definition of technology programming/ providers or intermediaries in the federal language.

"Those of us involved in Digital Inclusion efforts feel strongly that federal funds/grants should focus on strengthening the capacity of local, community-based Digital Inclusion programs.
Community-based programming, delivered through social service agencies, stresses the importance of helping residents in underserved communities learn basic technology skills. While access to computers and broadband are important, what is most needed is training and support for new technology users.

We heard this loud and clear from underserved residents via community surveys and town hall meetings held in conjunction with our City’s Wireless Initiative (Wireless Minneapolis). As a result, Minneapolis’ Digital Inclusion efforts reflect this.

National efforts often fail to identify or address existing barriers to digital inclusion that local programs both understand and successfully address through innovative programming.

Libraries are terrific at making computers and the Internet available, but Libraries do not have the staff or expertise to teach technology literacy, or help individual residents seek jobs, education, or resources online.

Community Colleges are great at helping students and staff navigate online technologies, but do not provide resources for those outside of their college communities, such as recent immigrants, youth, seniors and people with disabilities.

Community Technology Centers (CTCs) are critical to reaching new and novice technology users, and are instrumental in developing workforce initiatives from skills training through online job search.

Municipalities and Community Foundations are often in the best position to oversee and leverage CTC programs at the local level, and can engage private partners to help advance adoption and use.

We urge this committee to expand the eligible grantee list to specifically invite Municipalities and Community Foundations to act as “re-grantors” or regional grantees for BTOP funds.
From our perspective, national non-profits and state governments have been neither effective or efficient in various Digital Inclusion efforts over the past decade, so we ask the committee to favor locally originated, community based programming over national efforts in terms of this grant program.