The Net Literacy Alliance is an outreach program conceived by Net Literacy (www.netliteracy.org) – and is designed to enable digital inclusion organizations to obtain additional grants and volunteers – and enable these organizations to more efficiently partner with broadband providers, government organizations, and other nonprofits.
Please read more about Net Literacy.
Digital exclusion – or population groups with low broaband and adoption rates are expensive! It diminishes the quality of people’s lives, reduces their competitiveness and life options, and closes them off from a world of information, entertainment, and communications.
Net Literacy, a 501(c)(3) organization, was founded by a middle school student who was volunteering at a public library to teach computer and Internet skills to senior citizens and elementary school youngsters. After one of the classes, a senior citizen told the student that while he enjoyed the program, it was too bad that some of his wheelchair-bound neighbors could not leave their facility and learn how to send emails. Several local organizations and national agencies were contacted to identify a program that would enable this student to go inside independent and assisted living facilities, build public computer labs, and teach mobility-impaired residents computer and Internet skills, but without success. Once this gap in the nation’s social coverage was identified, a community ascertainment was conducted that indicated senior facilities had a high degree of interest about educating residents; but none of them had the funds to establish a public computer lab within their own facilities. Armed with this research and loaded with entrepreneurial talents, the young lad began a quest that led to the formation of a very successful and growing not-for profit enterprise today known as the “Net Literacy Corporation” (www.netliteracy.org). The fledgling business became involved in computer donation drives, building computer labs inside independent living facilities, teaching senior citizens computer and Internet skills, and disposing of unusable computers in an EPA compliant manner. In late 2004, the scope of the organization was increased to also include underserved and computer illiterate youths and families. To date, over 1000 students from middle schools, high schools and colleges have volunteered to repurpose computers or teach in their communities and provide extensive one-on-one training for those who were formerly on the wrong side of the digital divide.
The mission of Net Literacy is to empower youth to increase computer availability and Internet literacy focusing on underserved youth, families, and seniors citizens. It is a student-empowered nonprofit organization that has to date provided enhanced computer access to dwellings or community centers serving well over 100,000 individuals in several states. The students have their own operating board of directors to plan strategy, develop operational plans, write grant proposals, and organize their training efforts. The group also has some adult assistance: Net Literacy’s honorary co-chairpersons are Senator Evan Bayh and Senator Richard Lugar. The group is also assisted by a small volunteer adult member board to sign and authorize contracts. The student-volunteers recently met with members of the Indiana General Assembly, resulting in the passage of House Concurrent Resolution 85, honoring the “Indiana Net Literacy” Program. In 2005, Net Literacy was also recognized with presentations by former President Clinton and Secretary of State Powell, as well as President Bush in a White House ceremony. In 2009, the Indiana General Assembly passed House Concurrent Resolution 95, which was lobbied for and written by Net Literacy student volunteers. This resolution encourages communities to establish Internet Safety days and for PEG Channels to carry Safe Connects and other Internet safety awareness programming.
The company’s efforts are divided among four major programs:
1. Senior Connects Program – This program promotes senior citizen computer and Internet literacy by supplying computers and training materials; or by building public computer labs and teaching senior citizens (and especially those seniors that are mobility impaired or lack reliable transportation)computer and Internet skills. Senior Connects (www.seniorconnects.org) has provided many residents with their first access to public computer labs within their own facilities. The students do all of the installation, computer and software set-up and training – while the management of the facilities must agree to install and maintain Internet access for its residents. Many seniors are excited to learn basic applications and are especially enthused by the prospect of sending email to family members. Just as importantly, these extensive community service activities have provided the student-volunteers with invaluable leadership and interpersonal skills to complement their technical expertise. The program is changing and each Senior Connects team will be anchored in a high school. Some high schools are piloting programs that invites senior citizens into the schools and use the school’s computer labs.
2. Safe Connects Program – With Internet predators and chat room bullying, finding effective ways to educate children about Internet safety has become a critical issue that is not often addressed in our schools – and this Net Literacy program has established a “student-teaching-students/parents” model program for school systems throughout America. There are three components to this program. Volunteer high school students are provided with professionally-developed PowerPoint and script training materials to conduct classes for their younger peers in the presence of their parents in the schools after school. Safe Connects’ annual $100,000 Internet safety awareness program is composed of ten public service announcements, and was announced by the Superintendent of Public Instruction and funded by Bright House Networks. Other television affiliate networks and PEG channels are also carrying these PSAs. Focusing on the 3rd through 6th grade parents and students, 7th and 8th grade parents and students, and high school students, three television productions have been designed, scripted, and produced by Net Literacy student volunteers. These programs are helping increase Internet safety awareness to hundreds of thousands of youths and parents. A Safe Connects website has been constructed (www.safeconnects.org) and includes sections for students, parents, K-12 teachers, and other youth organizations.
3. Community Connects Program – Computer Connects’ is another Net Literacy program that has built hundreds of computer labs to increase computer access to the underserved. Community Connects (www.communityconnects.org) provides a computer or computer lab to HUD and Section 8 apartment with 50 or more dwelling units, community centers, faith-based organizations, nonprofits, public libraries, and schools. In 2008 alone, thousands of computers have impacted tens of thousands of individuals, and especially youths on the wrong side of the digital divide. Computer, Internet, and Internet safety training is taught to those individuals receiving access to computers and the Internet. In 2008 alone, over $1,000,000 has been invested in communities ranging from Terre Haute to Fort Wayne, from Indianapolis to Lafayette, and from Carmel to Westfield. This effort has been supported by numerous City Councils, Town Councils, Boards of Supervisors, County Commissioners, Mayors and Town Managers, including the Indianapolis and Fort Wayne mayors. Student volunteers have also learned job and life skills while giving back to their community, as they have built dozens of websites for nonprofits not previously having an online presence (www.indynonprofit.org) and have strengthened communities by building community portals to bring neighborhoods together (www.neareastside.org). One computer at a time – Community Connects increases computer access where the digital divide is the greatest.
4. Computer Connects – Every Saturday, from many schools gather to work together to repurpose thousands of computers in support of the Community Connects and Senior Connects programs. During weekdays, high schools and colleges also repurpose computers providing thousands of computers for schools. Schools use the computers to build computer labs, place computers in the classrooms, and provide computers to families not having a computer at their home. Student volunteers dispose of unusable computers in an EPA compliant manner, preventing computers and monitors from being delivered to landfills. This is especially important considering that the monitors that are buried in landfills have toxins that could potentially affect the quality of life of succeeding generations of Americans. Net Literacy is a Microsoft Authorized Reseller (MAR), and installs Microsoft, Open Source, and other software on these computers. Learn more by visiting www.computerconnects.org.
5. Financial Connects – Since financial literacy is a requirement for all high school students to master to ensure that they live rich and successful lives, the student board decided to create a fifth core program in 2008. By 2009, funding and support had been received by Lilly Endowment, Old National Bank, and Bright House Networks. During the summer of 2009, twenty students from eight schools worked together to build a website that included 200 “best of web” financial literacy videos and interactive games after an exhaustive research project that included a review of more than 5000 financial literacy websites. Phase One of the Financial Connects website is at www.financialconnects.org.
In March 2009, 24 students on Net Literacy’s Board of Directors met with Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Tony Bennett. Dr. Bennett challenged the students to innovate novel service learning projects that would support the Indiana Department of Education’s goals of increasing student success. Net Literacy’s student board responded – and successfully competed for a $98,000 grant from State Farm and State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board. On February 22, 2009, State Farm Community Specialist Ed Perez presented the check to Net Literacy at the Indiana Department of Education. “I am proud that Net Literacy, an organization made of Indiana students, successfully competed for State Farm’s financial literacy grant. This is the type of service learning project that encourages student success, and I congratulate them on this endeavor,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett. Net Literacy is grateful for State Farm’s Youth Advisory Board’s support and advocacy.
Net Literacy’s programs are independently beginning to be developed by students from New York to California. Net Literacy was selected by the European Union Study on Digital Inclusion as one of the 91 most promising good practice initiatives based upon an investigation of 32 countries including the EU Member States, the United States, Norway, Iceland, Canada, and India. The United States Internet Industry Association (www.usiia.org) asked Net Literacy to Chair the Standing Committee on Digital Inclusion, and Net Literacy spokesperson have participated in regional and national panels and conferences regarding digital inclusion.
Net Literacy’s student volunteers have increased digital inclusion awareness via television news stories, magazine articles, radio shows, website articles, and newspaper articles that have been viewed by tens of millions of individuals. Recognizing the importance of digital inclusion and Net Literacy – the Indiana General Assembly passed Resolution 85, which encouraged all State government organization and other Hoosiers to promote digital inclusion, and recognized Net Literacy for its contributions. In 2009, the Indiana General Assembly passed Resolution 95, that encouraged all PEG (Public Education and Government) Channels to carry more Internet safety content – and specifically Net Literacy’s Safe Connects’ videos.
Net Literacy has been endorsed or has partnered with State Farm, Intel, Microsoft, Bright House Networks, the Verizon Foundation, by the Indiana Recycling Coalition, the European Union’s Commission on Digital Inclusion, The Techpoint Foundation, the US Internet Industry Association, the AARP, the Urban League, the Indiana State Legislature, the Clowes Fund, Lilly Endowment, the United Way, the Clowes Fund, the Corporation for Education Technology, The Hoover Family Foundation, the Indianapolis Fund, the Junior League, and many other organizations.