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BTOP Case Study Four: Andrew Buss, Director of Public Programs, Office of Innovation & Technology, City of Philadelphia
As part of our BTOP series: Tales from the Front Lines, today we are highlighting public computer centers in Philadelphia.
The City of Philadelphia is using a Recovery Act award to open or expand 77 computer centers in health and social service agencies, homeless shelters, affordable housing locations and recreation centers in low-income communities across the city. The project, led by Philadelphia's Office of Innovation & Technology, gives the city's most vulnerable residents access to everything from job postings to health information to educational resources on the Internet. It is part of a broader program called KEYSPOT, Powered by Freedom Rings Partnership. The partnership is a coalition of more than a dozen city agencies, grass-roots organizations and universities working to increase broadband adoption rates in Philadelphia. Another lead agency in the partnership, the Urban Affairs Coalition, is using a separate Recovery Act grant to teach digital literacy skills and provide workforce training in KEYSPOT computer centers. Working together, the two projects are providing online access, instruction and support to help all Philadelphia residents participate in today's wired society.
A public computer center in West Philadelphia
Buss said Philadelphia’s broadband programs are creating new “community spaces” outside of home and work that offer “something additive to people’s lives that reaches far beyond technology.” He noted, for instance, that Bengali taxi drivers have begun congregating in a public computer center in West Philadelphia to Skype relatives back in Bangladesh and India. Technology, Buss said, is “really just the ancillary ingredient that is creating these communities.” Equally important, Buss said, the broadband programs are teaching digital literacy skills and providing job search assistance and training to give the city’s poorest residents more options in life. Ultimately, Buss said, the programs offer a path to transcend the confines of the city’s low-income neighborhoods and a gateway to a wider world.
For more information see the Philadelphia Freedom Rings BTOP project pages.