Recognizing the expertise of community leaders and the importance of community members’ goals, California Connects chose an original, adaptive strategy that sought to simultaneously strengthen program participants’ computer and Internet skills and collaborated with them in a process of discovery. Never before had a program with the size and scope of California Connects been undertaken, and its innovations have drawn a promising blueprint for planning and assessing future digital equality efforts.
The unique structure of California Connects programs allowed for the following successes:
Building programs to fit within existing relationships and building new relationships with local entities allowed California Connects to quickly reach the digitally disconnected.
California Connects collaborated with Dr. Blanca Gordo to lead an independent research and evaluation team at the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI). The research team expanded theoretical claims about expanding broadband adoption among the un- and under-served low-income and low-literacy populations by studying the experiences and successes of the California Connects program. The case study made it possible to identify the social conditions, institutional policies, and community programs that most effectively produce benefit and empowerment from broadband technology for socio-economically disadvantaged populations. A thorough and thoughtful evaluation of California Connects provided an unparalleled opportunity for uncovering dynamic factors and methods for developing even more effective programs for the future.
The research team of the California Connects is laying the groundwork for evaluating flexible, wide-scale broadband adoption programs tailored for the disconnected by…
The journey toward widespread broadband adoption and program evaluation requires identifying the challenges posed to target communities and implementing effective public policies that address those challenges.
The pioneering efforts of California Connects demonstrated the benefits of flexibility, and the evaluation team’s extensive series of interviews, focus groups, and surveys allowed them to glean important insights into which and how complementary learning materials and guidelines for training could maximize program benefits. Creating ready-to-use resources tailored to the needs of new broadband adopters is an easy way to lighten the burden on community institutions and to extend the reach of California Connects and similar programs.
Some recommendations for future programs include:
California Connects has raised awareness, initiated dialogue, and provided a variety of potential models for integrating new entrants to the online world through sustainable community-level interventions. Continued research, progressive development of key resources, and strengthening of community networks are leading the way to digital equality.