On Tuesday I had the pleasure of visiting the first public computer center opened as a result of a $1.9 million BTOP grant to the City of Boston. The opening, at the Mildred Avenue Community Center in Mattapan, was attended by Mayor Menino, other city officials, and project partners the Boston Public Library, Boston Housing Authority, and Boston Centers for Youth and Families. Dare I say that it was “wicked” exciting?
At Mildred Avenue, I got to meet the center’s managers, computer teacher, volunteers, and – best of all – kids who couldn’t wait to use the computers to play educational games. The City of Boston project focuses on the “reinvestment” aspect of the Recovery Act by replacing and bolstering equipment at about 50 locations, including community centers, Boston Housing Authority sites, and libraries in many of the city’s lowest-income and lowest-broadband-adoption areas. These centers were hard-hit by funding cuts due to the economic climate, but now they will all be updated by early 2011. The BTOP investment will also support a range of training targeted to the needs of the community, including computer skills, job readiness, and GED preparation.
The project is a great testament to the power of collaboration and the determination of the city’s CIO Bill Oates and his energized team to bridge Boston’s digital divide and bring residents all the educational and job benefits that broadband has to offer.
Angela Simpson is a senior policy advisor to the Assistant Secretary.