Net Literacy is an Indianapolis based 501(c)non-profit organization that promotes computer and Internet literacy throughout communities. While the program is completely youth-run, many of the volunteers benefit from the adult mentoring the organization provides. All the constituents of Net Literacy receive instruction for free. It is a student-empowered nonprofit organization that has to date provided enhanced computer access to dwellings or community centers serving over 100,000 individuals in four states.
- 1 History
- 2 Mission
- 3 Governance and Volunteers
- 4 Legislative Accomplishments
- 5 Partnerships
- 6 Press
- 7 Digital Inclusion
- 8 Programs
- 9 Computer Initiatives
- 10 Partners
- 11 External links
Net Literacy was founded officially in 2003 when Senior Connects was re-organized into the Net Literacy Corporation. Over 1000 student volunteers have taught hundreds of seniors and other underserved individuals. Net Literacy has increased computer access to over 150,000 individuals in four states.
Net Literacy 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. Thousand of students 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. Students have contributed hundreds of thousands of hours of community service work. Since 2005, Net Literacy has collaborated with The Techpoint Foundation to promote youth philanthropy and community service, increase computer access and literacy throughout Indiana, and educate youth and adults about Internet safety.
The mission of Net Literacy is to empower youth to increase computer availability and Internet literacy focusing on underserved youth, families, and seniors citizens.
Governance and Volunteers
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. Dr. Suellen Reed, Superintendent of the Indiana Department of Education, also serves on the honorary board. The students are assisted by a small volunteer adult member board to sign and authorize contracts.
In 2005, the student-volunteers lobbied members of the Indiana General Assembly, resulting in the passage of House Concurrent Resolution 85, honoring the “Indiana Net Literacy” Program. Net Literacy was also recognized with presentations from former President Clinton to Secretary of State Powell, and from former Senator Dole to President Bush in a White House ceremony. In 2006, Net Literacy received the Mother Teresa Kindness Award from the National Caring Institute and was recognized as the “Citizen of the Year” by the Topics and several other Gannett newspapers.
Net Literacy has been endorsed by or partnered with over 400 organizations, including The Techpoint Foundation, the Indiana Recycling Coalition, the US Internet Industry Association, the AARP, the Urban League, the Indiana Association of Student Councils, Purdue University, The Verizon Foundation, Lilly Endowment, the United Way, Bright House Networks, the Corporation for Education Technology, the Indiana Department of Education, and numerous school districts.
Net Literacy has worked hard to create public awareness about the digital divide and the Internet safety problem. In addition to the local press, People Magazine, The New York Times, The AARP Magazine, USA Today, and US News & World Report have written articles about Net Literacy. Net Literacy has also appeared nationally on ABC TV, Retirement Living TV, eTown, and NPR.
Net Literacy’s programs are independently beginning to be developed by students from New York to California and around the world. The US Internet Industry Association (www.usiia.org) recently submitted a Filing to the Federal Communication Commission naming Net Literacy’s model as the preferred approach to reducing the digital divide in the United States (http://www.usiia.org/legis/FCC 09-51 Comments.doc). 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 (http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/eeurope/i2010/benchmarking/index_en.htm#Digital_Literacy_Review_-_Public_policies_and_stakeholders_initiatives_in_support_of_Digital_Literacy). Microsoft’s publication Innovating for inclusion: A Digital Inclusion guide for those leading the way, cites Net Literacy as one of the best of class digital inclusions examples (http://download.microsoft.com/download/c/d/f/cdf8d9fa-c7b6-4524-b516-198e7812a85f/78403_071128_PublicSector_Manuscript_f1t0_mg.pdf). Other organizations and consortiums, including the US Broadband Coalition with 170 members that range from Google to Comcast and from Verizon to Cisco Systems cited Net Literacy and its model as a policy consideration in its “Adoption and Usage Report.” The report was prepared for the Federal Communications Commission in behalf of America’s broadband industry to support the FCC’s National Broadband Plan Blueprint report to Congress. The FCC cited Net Literacy and its programs (Digital Literacy Corps, Community Connects, and Senior Connects) in the National Broadband Plan presented to Congress in April, 2010.
Senior Connects (www.seniorconnects.org) was the first program of Net Literacy, founded originally as the Senior Connects Corporation in 2003. Senior Connects targets retirement homes, independent living facilities, and nursing homes and provides computers and computer and Internet training to the residents. Through the Senior Connects program over 11,000 residents have received computer and Internet access.
- Builds computer labs inside independent and assisted living facilities
- Teaches Seniors how to use the computer and access the Internet
- Provided access in hundreds of facilities and increased computer access to over 40,000 seniors
This flagship 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 has provided many residents with their first access to public computer labs within their own facilities. The students have provided computers to hundreds independent living facilities, senior oriented HUD apartments, and senior centers impacting 40,000 seniors. 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 invite senior citizens into the schools to use the schools’ computer labs.
Safe Connects (www.safeconnects.org) is a Net Literacy program that targets K-12 students teaching Internet Safety. Safe Connects works with public schools and the Department of Education to integrate the Safe Connects curricula into School curricula. The main categories of the curriculum include:
- Net Predators
- Adult Category Content
- Net Safety
With Internet predators, hate websites, 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 is establishing a “student-teaching-students & parents” model program in Central Indiana. Volunteer high school students will be provided with professionally-developed training materials to conduct classes for their younger peers in the presence of their parents. While first focusing on 4th through 6th grade and high school students, a Safe Connects website has been constructed and will include a section for students, parents, K-12 teachers, and other youth organizations. The program will offer four age appropriate modules. The program, which was approved by the IDOE, has a 4-6 grade program, and 7/8 grade program, and a 9-12 grade program is being tested at several central Indiana high schools. The K-3 and 7-8 grade programs. In 2009, the Indiana General Assembly passed a resolution calling for all Indiana Public, educational, and government access (PEG) Channels to carry the Safe Connects programming.
Computer Connects is a program of Net Literacy that is responsible for collecting and refurbishing computers. The computers are then distributed by Community Connects to Senior centers and other community centers. Since its inception, Net Literacy has repurposed thousands of computers.
On all donated computers (unless otherwise requested), the hard drive is securely wiped by DBAN. On most computers that are refurbished by Computer Connects, a slipstreamed version of Windows 2000 w/ OpenOffice is installed.
In 2006, high schools began establishing their own Computer Connects programs, repurposing computers to families on public assistance that could not otherwise afford to purchase a computer for their children to complete their homework at home.
Computer Connects’ priority is to provide computer labs to HUD and Section 8 apartments, community centers, pre-school, after school, faith-based and other nonprofits seeking to establish their own computer labs. Over 70,000 residents and members have had realized increased computer access through the creation or expansion of public computer labs with the help of numerous mayors and town managers, including the Indianapolis and Fort Wayne mayors. Through the Community Connects and Senior Connects programs, hundreds of locations serving 110,000 individuals have received computers so that public computer labs could be established or expanded.
Financial Connects' is a website that aggregates financial literacy videos and online interactive games. It also includes 20 original financial literacy videos that served as a pilot to test the fesability of this project. One month after the Financial Connects website launched, Net Literacy received a $98,000 grant from State Farm insurance so the website could be expanded and serve as a national financial literacy website created by students. Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Tony Bennett commended the students on this project and the IDOE sent an email to every Indiana Principal and Superintendent encouraging them to participate in a contest which will provide 100 prizes ranging from $250 to $1,000 for videos and interactive games used on this website.
EPA Compliant Computer Recycling
EPA Compliant Computer Recycling is an integral part of the computer-drives. Asset Forwarding, a member of both the Indiana and National Recycling Coalition has endorsed Net Literacy and agreed to be the "point company" in a state-wide computer recycling drive. Computer Recycling is very important to reduce the amount of landfill space taken up and reduction of toxins in the environment.
Net Literacy student volunteers adopt projects and programs that are designed to make a difference in their community. As an example, during a Lilly Endowment summer program, 18 student volunteers built websites for 20 nonprofits as a community service, many of which could not have otherwise been able to afford an online presence. The website built by these volunteers can be seen at www.indynonprofit.org. A second project focused on building a website at www.NESCOcommunity.org.
- Bright House Networks
- The United Way
- Lilly Endowment
- Clowes Fund
- The Indiana General Assembly
- The Indiana Department of Education
- The City of Indianapolis
- The City of Fort Wayne
- The City of Carmel
- The City of Noblesville
- The Town of Fishers
- The Town of Westfield
- Purdue University
- Indiana Recycling Coalition
- Prudential Corporation
- The National Caring Institute
- The Techpoint Foundation
- United States Internet Industry Association
- Gannett Foundation
- Lilly Endowment
- The Indianapolis Urban League
- Indiana Association of Student Councils
- The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards
- Do Something, Inc.
- The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
- Purdue University
- Verizon Foundation
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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