California Connects is a three-year program that will increase digital literacy and broadband access in underserved communities throughout the state by deploying community college Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program students and representatives from the Great Valley Center to teach members of the community how to access and navigate the Internet for educational, health, and economic purposes. Funded by a $10.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), California Connects is administered by the Foundation for California Community Colleges.
Learn more about broadband adoption and the key design elements of California Connects:
• Restoring Equity Through Access: Unprecedented Investment & Opportunity
• Innovative Solutions: California Connects
• Tracking Access & Opportunity
Restoring Equity Through Access: Unprecedented Investment & Opportunity
Inequality in Broadband Ownership Rates Persist
Currently, and using the most reliable and representative data set available, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce confirms scientific claims that broadband penetration continues to grow, seven out of ten American households used the Internet in 2009. The majority of users accessed the Internet from home and about one fourth of all households did not have an Internet user. The latest NTIA report, Exploring the Digital Nation: Home Broadband Internet Adoption in the United States, verifies ongoing technology ownership inequality gaps. The data shows that Black (49%) and Latino households (48%) in the United States continue to be least likely to own broadband at home than are their Asian (77%) and White (68%) counterparts. The current adoption rate illustrates a 20% difference with a continual historical deficit for Latinos and Blacks. The latest CPS data, a U.S. Census Current Populations survey, also highlights previous evidence that differences in socio-economic attributes explain some but not the entire gap in broadband Internet adoption associated with race and ethnicity. The same holds true for the consistent gap between rural (51%) and urban (66%) households.
In accordance, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), through a representative statewide survey, confirms the continual technology ownership inequality gap demarcated by race and ethnicity, income and place in California. While broadband adoption in the state continues to increase, from 62% in 2009 to 70% in 2010, only 50% of Latinos compared to 82% of whites, 77% of Asians, and 70% of blacks reported broadband connection at home. The PPIC too documents persistent regional differences in broadband adoption. Only 64% of Central Valley residents reported having broadband at home compared to 79% of residents in San Francisco in 2010.
The Executive Branch Seeks to Break Technology Bottlenecks for Development
The Barack H. Obama Administration appropriated public funds to break technology market bottlenecks in the United States. Through an economic stimulus package, the Executive Administration is implementing a national broadband adoption policy to benefit "under-served" and "un-served" people and places. One objective is to make possible broadband service and reverse low information technology adoption rates by social ethnic populations in low-income places. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) includes the Title VI Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). BTOP, through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service, has distributed $7.2 billion to fund urban and rural broadband interventions, all spent by September 2010. Beneficiaries of Title VI are spread throughout the United States, in rural and urban places, and involve a wide range of stakeholders: private industry, public institutions, nonprofit organizations, foundations, and research universities that operate at various levels of the national institutional structure.
Among other goals, this national policy is meant to expand and provide access to broadband service to consumers residing in "under- and un- served" areas in the United States broadly sanctioned but not determined by any state. Its purpose is to stimulate the supply and demand for broadband service to expand the sustainable technology consumer market throughout the United States. A priority is to do so in ways that could include the development needs and interest of low- income populations and places as one pathway towards economic growth and job generation.
On August 19, 2010, the NTIA awarded the Foundation for California Community Colleges with $10.9 million dollars to implement California Connects; a sustainable broadband adoption plan to support the development needs of the state's "digital divide" populations through community-anchoring institutions.
• Read Vice-President Biden's ARRA Award Announcement
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Innovative Solutions: California Connects
California Connects is integrating broadband into the learning process of underrepresented motivated community college students and employment of community paraprofessionals, that will, in turn, train community members and relatives in need of technology-based productive systems now used by industry, public institutions, and society at large. This work will inform the production of a culturally relevant statewide broadband campaign educating the disconnected.
Developing Digital Literacy Tools
California Connects, in partnership with American River College, will develop two online digital literacy tools. A basic English and mathematics skills tool will provide users with the opportunity to learn and refresh general English and mathematics concepts for professional development and educational purposes. In addition, a digital literacy training tool will help users learn to:
• Identify computer components and functions
• Access, manipulate, and manage electronic information
• Learn the functionalities and personal benefits of broadband access
• Navigate the Web (open a browser, log into a web-site, maneuver, bookmark)
• Learn to use web-conferencing and social networking tools
• Understand internet security, protections, and rights
• Manage diverse content in an online format
The digital literacy training tool will provide exercises for new broadband users to learn how to use the internet for essential tasks such as conducting job research, building a resume, exploring higher education opportunities, accessing health and finance resources, utilizing social networks, and performing other functions of daily life.
Empowering MESA students
The nationally recognized Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) program has for the past 40 years engaged thousands of educationally disadvantaged students to graduate with Calculus-based degrees. Through the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, MESA is an academic partnership with the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) that serves economically disadvantaged California community college students at 33 of California’s 112 community colleges throughout the state. MESA students come from socio-economically disadvantaged homes and are often first generation college students. MESA students truly reflect the diversity of California – in addition to English students speak native languages such as Russian, Spanish, Punjabi, Chinese, and Cantonese.
California Connects provides MESA students with access to technology resources including hardware – a laptop computer with broadband as well as training software suitable for students studying in calculus-based fields. MESA students are developing their own digital literacy by preparing for and taking a Microsoft certification exam in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and/or Access.
Through California Connects, MESA students are sharing their technology resources and knowledge with family and community members. Serving as Community Trainers, MESA students are providing critical resources to individuals currently disconnected from broadband services.
The Central Valley’s Call to Action
The Great Valley Center (GVC) is a non-profit organization (affiliated with UC Merced) that supports activities and organizations benefiting the economic, social and environmental well-being of California's Great Central Valley. GVC works closely with Central Valley colleges, libraries, and other public computing centers to provide intensive outreach, community awareness, hands-on training, and technical assistance. Leveraging GVC’s deep community times, outreach strategies in the Valley combine electronic and print communications along with presentations to various community groups and organizations.
Through California Connects, the following Central Valley counties will be served: Amador, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Fresno, Kings, Kern, Mariposa, Merced, Madera, Nevada, Placer, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tuolumne, Tulare, and Yuba. This rural region has a high concentration of Latinos with high levels of “digital destitution” indicators, such as: low levels of computer ownership, low levels of Internet use, and low levels of broadband ownership.
Cadre of Community Trainers
On February 10, 2011 President Obama called for a National Wireless Initiative to make available high-speed wireless services to at least 98% of Americans. Increased access alone will not help close the “digital divide” or gap between individuals with access to information technology and resources and those who have little or no access – the have’s and have-not’s. California Connects supports this national movement to elevate access to digital literacy skills by providing digital divide populations basic and necessary technology and human skills development that could enable adoption.
California community college Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) students and paraprofessionals via the Great Valley Center (a community-based organization), representing the target population, are serving as Community Trainers. These representatives will be the first point of reference in assisting non- and late- adopters as they expose relatives and community members to a broadband adoption development curve.
Knowledge, generated through practice, about what is and not working, will inform direct service providers about forthcoming and necessary institutional adjustments in restructuring plans. Lesions learned from California Connects will help build frames for educational messages that reach digital divide populations and help identify practical ways that facilitate skill building training of a low technology production labor force as they seek to participate in the productive technology development system underway in our society.
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Tracking Access & Opportunity
Following a U.S. Congressional mandate, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently inscribed a new set of policy guidelines to actualizing ubiquitous broadband adoption and utilization through the 2010 Connecting America: National Broadband Plan, the first of its kind. The plan outlines a course of action for expanding broadband related services for practical development purposes such as education, health care, economic opportunity, government performance, civic engagement, public safety, energy, and the environment. Because the disconnected primarily operate under a paper and human based system of institutional transactions, this plan is the formal guideline for how public and private institutions can support the building of a widespread national broadband infrastructure that can yield positive returns in technology investment plans and reduce the net loss effect – inefficiency costs associated with maintaining two tier systems to serve the disconnected.
The Digital Divide Affects Us All
There is an increasing social expectation and more often an institutional request or requirement for the public to connect to the digitized system of operation being used. This online system is increasingly replacing paper-based systems of operation and supplementing face-to-face human transactions. Institutions that preserve paper-based systems to offset imbalance of online users among the public are now increasingly collecting a fee. This is a cost for those who do not own or have access to the mechanism that facilitates online exchanges. Thus, whereas technology was once a convenience, the increased saturation of technology and its uses for daily function are now creating inconvenience and added cost for those who are disconnected. More often than not, institutions are eliminating human and paper based processes when they are online. Eradicating the digital divide will increase equity, efficiency, and opportunity for all Americans.
Join our Effort to Eradicate the Digital Divide
California Connects is one of many efforts throughout the nation that seeks to positively impact the digital divide. California Connects is facilitating the introduction of broadband use among digital divide populations in ways that facilitate learning, gainful employment, and wealth generation.
Renewed public and private attention to spur broadband adoption amongst the nation’s disadvantaged is regenerating ongoing public debate about the causes and potential solutions to serving the disconnected. We invite you to learn and share with us as we, together, move to bridge the digital divide throughout our communities.
Visit the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) for additional information about broadband adoption trends and to join this community of practice.
• New Resource: National Broadband Map
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