BTOP in Action

Image: Launch attendees review a map of the 104 Alaska OWL libraries.

The Alaska Department of Education held a project launch meeting in Anchorage on December 15 and 16, 2010, for project partners and librarians from across the state. The $8.2 million Alaska OWL: Online with Libraries project will enhance public computer centers at 104 libraries in Alaska. In addition to providing faster Internet connections to these libraries, many in remote rural areas, Alaska OWL will establish an innovative public videoconferencing network for a number of purposes ranging from online training in remote villages to recording and preserving indigenous languages.

This collaborative effort primarily funded by the BTOP and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will also use funds to extend library hours and create jobs. Currently, many local libraries are open for less than 20 hours each week. However, with the help of BTOP funds, these libraries will be able stay open for an additional five hours per week and serve approximately an additional 12,000 users. The Alaska Department of Education is in the process of hiring four employees to assist in launching the project and expects to hire an additional 65 part-time employees as Internet aides. To see local news coverage, please visit here.
Last Updated: October 19, 2011

Library patrons in Douglas, Ariz. use the new computers purchased under AzPAC

According to a 2011 American Library Association survey, 64.5 percent of libraries report that they are the only provider of free public Internet in their communities. The Arizona Public Access Computers (AzPAC) project, run by the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records division, targets this need by deploying more than 1,000 new computers in 84 libraries across the state. These computers will increase access to e-resources and enable the libraries to provide training in digital literacy and technology skills.

AzPAC provides Arizona’s libraries with the equipment to reach an estimated 450,000 previously underserved citizens, many of whom do not have access to the Internet at home or work. In certain areas of Arizona, such as Yuma County, large populations of seniors rely on public libraries for access to computers and the Internet. In addition, three tribal libraries are participating in the program.

As of June 2011, the Arizona State Library purchased around 950 computers and installed more than 500. Local members of the community use these computers for a variety of tasks, including completing online courses and filing for healthcare benefits. In addition, many patrons build resumes, complete job applications, and search for jobs using the free Internet access. AzPAC hopes that facilitating job-search training and holding resume drafting courses will stimulate employment and economic growth in the state.

Last Updated: December 23, 2011

Steve Thigpen and visitors pose in front of the library’s new computer

In March 2011, the Center for Governmental Services at Auburn University, in partnership with Tuskegee University and the Alabama Public Library System, began upgrading and adding Internet workstations in schools and libraries throughout Alabama. This statewide initiative is designed to provide visitors with computer resources that they can use to search for jobs online, find career development materials, and apply for employment, training, or related assistance. As of June 2011, BTOP funds have allowed the project to distribute 1,400 new workstations, which are serving an average of 29,300 students and library patrons per week at 66 public computing centers.

In many cases, these centers were using computers more than 10 years old. The response to receiving these new workstations from the librarians, patrons and students has been overwhelmingly positive. Members of hard-hit communities are using these new computers for schoolwork, jobs, and digital literacy training.

Auburn University is also providing training for library staff members. Librarians participate in webinars via Auburn University’s website and learn techniques for managing their new computer resources. Additionally, BTOP funds have allowed Auburn University to create six new jobs to assist with the project’s administration and distribution of new computers. By the end of the project, more than 130 locations in 55 counties throughout Alabama will receive $3.5 million worth of new computers and computer equipment.

Last Updated: October 14, 2011

Students taking a telemedicine course in Maine

In late 2010, Axiom Technologies, LLC launched sustainable broadband adoption programs to increase the utilization of technology in the healthcare, fishing, and farming industries in Washington County, Maine. These BTOP-funded programs are establishing the groundwork for defining new and innovative ways that broadband can improve production, service, and knowledge in each of these industries.


In November 2010, Axiom Technologies held a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the Maine Fiber Company, a BTOP infrastructure grantee which is connecting the Central Maine Medical Center College of Nursing and Health Professions to a statewide fiber-optic network and announced new telemedicine learning capabilities. At the ceremony, both grantees announced new telemedicine learning capabilities. This faster network connection from the Maine Fiber Company will enable Axiom Technologies’ to help the College host video conferences with other state hospitals and learning institutions, so students can participate in remote distance learning. For instance, Axiom Technologies set up a similar remote learning program at the College of Nursing in Louiston, Maine, where students can use video conferencing services to connect to the University of Maine in Machias and take their nursing pre-requisite classes. The College also set up video conferencing capabilities, allowing nurses and paramedics to view a more diverse range of medical cases than those available at the local community’s Down East Hospital.

Fishing and Farming

Axiom Technologies is working to build new applications that can help improve the use of land and water resources and increase business knowledge and productivity software for economic development purposes. In January 2011, Axiom Technologies provided 10 local farmers and 10 local fishermen with wireless equipment and rugged laptops as part of a pilot project that included 62 community members. Participants followed an online curriculum and were offered training assistance over the course of 11 weeks. The courses focused on building skills in Microsoft ® Office, QuickBooks, Adobe ® Photoshop, basic computer setup and maintenance, and other computer software. The 62 community members completed more than 1,500 hours of training in the 11 week period. As the project moves forward, Axiom Technologies will increase broadband connections in locations near farmers and fishermen, and will look to build industry-relevant applications and assist local industries with utilizing broadband for small businesses and economic development purposes.

In addition to the far-reaching economic benefits this project can provide to local industries and communities in Maine, Axiom has hired five new positions to handle these different programs, the College hired three new positions to manage the new learning programs, and Down East Community Hospital had to hire a local person to manage the training program.

Last Updated: September 26, 2011

Students taking a telemedicine course in Maine
Farmers and fisherman take online courses
Farmers and fisherman take online courses
Participants at the Boat People SOS computer center in Bayou La Batre, Ala.

Through March 2012, Boat People SOS (BPSOS) delivered approximately 3,000 hours of training to more than 3,000 participants at public computer centers in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, and Louisville, Kentucky. BPSOS is implementing its Neighborhood Empowerment and Support through Teamwork (NEST) program to provide broadband access, training, education, and support to economically vulnerable individuals in these communities, both of which have significant Vietnamese immigrant and refugee populations.

BPSOS’s goal is to help people in these communities fully participate in today’s digital world by providing tools for economic and educational advancement. Through the NEST program, individuals participate in a variety of digital literacy and workforce development classes such as basic computer learning, English as a second language (ESL), resume building and job searches, how to use Skype and social media to communicate with family members abroad, and U.S. citizenship preparation.

In Bayou La Batre, a fishing and shrimping town of nearly 2,700 inhabitants, BPSOS collaborates with the community to help local fishermen and seafood processing plants reach new customers across the country. Fishing and shrimping business owners, many with limited English proficiency, can visit the BPSOS branch office in Bayou La Batre to obtain training and assistance with digital marketing. Additionally, BPSOS supplied laptops to Alba Middle School for a “rolling lab” on carts. Teachers use the laptops to help teach science, math, social studies, career exploration, and other subjects. BPSOS also equipped the community room of the Bayou Clinic with the technology to provide GED classes in partnership with a charitable organization.

In Louisville, BPSOS’s two computer centers provide training to help community members acquire the digital and workforce development skills needed in today’s economy. The two centers offer classes in basic and advanced computer concepts, ESL, citizenship preparation, online job searches and applications, and other topics. BPSOS also provides tutoring to youth, resources to get parents more involved in the education of their children, and even digital literacy training for senior citizens.

Boat People SOS public computer center, in Louisville, Ky
IMG: Members from Blandin and MIRC attend a kick off meeting.

The C.K. Blandin Foundation hopes to make broadband an integral part of Minnesotans’ lives through the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities (MIRC) project. MIRC is a collaborative project between the Blandin Foundation and project partners focused on supporting individuals and communities in rural Minnesota, especially the unemployed, small businesses, local leaders, and coalitions of government entities.

One of the project partners, PCs for People, is a nonprofit organization that refurbishes used computers with the help of people transitioning off of government assistance; in turn, the computers are provided to low-income individuals and families. Since the inception of the project in March 2010, the organization has refurbished 651 computers and distributed 525. Additional project partners are developing computer skills training modules and a statewide digital literacy curriculum.

In addition, the Blandin Foundation is using a portion of its $4.8 million in BTOP funding to support 11 demonstration communities across Minnesota. Each community assessed its broadband needs and received $100,000 to spend on local projects. Last fall, each community issued requests for proposals (RFPs) and, after receiving a large number of responses, announced selected projects at a MIRC meeting in December 2010. Projects will address a broad range of needs such as enabling Wi-Fi hotspots, distributing computers to seniors and citizens with disabilities, and encouraging web interaction and telehealth.

The Blandin Foundation’s outreach efforts have already led to more than 3,010 new broadband subscribers. By the completion of the project, MIRC will have changed the question from “what can I do with broadband?” to “what did we ever do without it?”

Last Updated: October 14, 2011.

Students participate in a digital literacy class
graduates from Project FINE’s computer class

Representatives from BTOP recipient California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) spent the weekend of September 18-19, 2010, reaching Hispanic residents in the Central Valley through community events. CETF sponsored a large booth at a Mexican Independence Day celebration in Fresno, distributing materials, answering questions, subscribing attendees for broadband services, providing onsite Internet access, and setting up e-mail accounts. The second event, sponsored by CETF’s partner, Radio Bilingue, was targeted at agricultural workers. Attendees received information about CETF’s broadband awareness and adoption campaign. CETF’s involvement in both events was designed to increase awareness of the importance of broadband access and to increase residents’ comfort around computers.

CETF partners also actively engaged community residents, sponsoring Computer Help Day events with Chinese‐speaking seniors in San Francisco’s Chinatown and San Mateo, implementing an education and awareness campaign intended to reach low-income Latino youth and adult audiences in the Central Valley, and promoting basic Internet classes at a farm worker community center in Half Moon Bay, hosting a booth at the San Mateo County Fair, and at two food distribution centers in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties.

Last Updated: November 22, 2010

Photo: “Cambridge Housing Authority BTOP in Action Students Using Computer”

The Cambridge Housing Authority (CHA) re-opened two community computer centers, created a third, and started teaching digital literacy courses again in September 2010 after receiving BTOP funds. State budget cuts had forced CHA to close computer centers that offered job and computer training to more than 10,000 low-income public housing residents. With BTOP funds, CHA, in collaboration with the Cambridge Employment Program, moved quickly to host a clinic to help people conduct online job searches, prepare resumes, and submit resumes to potential employers. CHA also started five-week advanced computer classes and 15-week basic computer skills classes, which are offered to local residents. More than 30 participants signed up for the first five-week program focused on using Microsoft Office® productivity software and conducting online job searches. The 15-week course also has gained momentum with more than 72 students participating in specialized classes on digital editing and publishing software. CHA has also reinstated other services, such as the digital enhancement of its Gateway English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course and its family literacy and support program, Reading on Computers with Kids. Reopening the centers has already helped secure employment for 15 adults, all of whom faced being laid off after the computer centers closed in July 2008.

The BTOP funds also allowed the CHA to reopen and expand the digital component of its Work Force program, which provides comprehensive life-skills and vocational training for low-income youth. Participants receive academic tutoring, academic testing prep work, and mentored employment opportunities from eighth grade through their senior year of high school. Students use the computer labs to develop resumes, fill out job applications, and perform college searches.

Last Updated: October 14, 2011

By November 2011, the City and County of San Francisco held digital literacy training for more than 1,600 participants. These workshops were created to boost broadband adoption among low-income families, senior citizens, adults with disabilities, and other socially vulnerable groups. Known as the San Francisco Community Broadband Opportunities Program (SF-CBOP), the City is partnering with 18 nonprofit and educational organizations to provide new computer classes and resources for local residents.

For example, The Bayview Hunter’s Point Center for Arts and Technology and Streetside Stories, two non-profit media arts organizations, provide digital media youth programs, which prepare students for careers in website design and content generation. Offered at 13 locations across the city, these programs teach participants website design principles, digital filmmaking, digital storytelling, and content creation techniques. The Community Living Campaign, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of senior citizens, provides digital literacy classes in more than 50 senior centers. These classes include computer basics, Internet fundamentals, Internet safety, and social media techniques.

Additionally, SF-CBOP is using BTOP funds to deploy new workstations in computer centers across the county. As of November 2011, SF-CBOP distributed more than 86 new workstations to the Vietnamese Youth Development Corporation, the Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center, and the Western Addition Neighborhood Beacon Center. By the end of the BTOP project, SF-CBOP will provide over 300,000 instructor-led training hours in a variety of languages, including English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Russian, to more than 8,000 residents.

Last Updated: December 23, 2011

“City of Boston BTOP in Action Ribbon Cutting Mayor Thomas M. Menino”

Visitors to the Mildred Avenue Community Center in Mattapan, Mass., used to navigate the Internet “with the technological equivalent of a horse and buggy mired on a muddy road,” according to the Boston Globe. On August 24, 2010, the Community Center became the first location to benefit from the $1.9 million BTOP grant to the City of Boston. Now, computer users link to the city’s new broadband fiber-optic network with 15 new desktops. Before the project is completed, the city will provide 627 new computers and job training software at 48 locations including 15 community centers, 11 Boston Housing Authority (BHA) sites, and 22 libraries in many of the city’s lowest-income and lowest broadband adoption areas.

At the Mildred Avenue Community Center, the new state-of-the-art desktops feature cutting edge software allowing participants to gain basic work skills online, study for the state’s standards-based assessment program, and access multimedia to produce videos and other art. BHA centers will feature similar software as well as programs geared toward health education. Computers at local library branches will provide literacy training and email access.

The goal is to complete computer installation across the city by early 2011. When complete, nearly 18,000 people a week – a 40 percent increase – will be able to access broadband Internet as well as software designed for various subject matters, including workforce development, after-school education, and gang intervention-conflict resolution workshops

To see local news coverage, please visit here.

Last Updated: January 5, 2011

BTOP in Action

An instructor teaches a local student during a computer basics course Connect Arkansas Inc.

Connect Arkansas held a variety of digital literacy and workforce development workshops for more...

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