Reducing digital divide in Minneapolis


Insight News ran two articles this week that serve as updates to the ARRA-funded broadband adoption program in the Twin Cities – Broadband Access Project (BAP), an outreach program developed through the University of Minnesota’s Urban Outreach and Engagement Center (UROC). One article looks specifically at addressing the needs of Latino population; the other focused on digital media classes taught at the Asian Community Technology Center.

Closing Digital Divide for Latino Population

The BAP updated and established 12 public computer centers aimed at increasing broadband access, awareness, and use in four federally designated poverty zones throughout the Twin Cities metro area. The project is open to all people but since this lab is housed in Centro, it caters mostly to Latinos. Each of the computer labs is outfitted with various numbers of up-to-date units and high-speed Internet capabilities, such as Microsoft office. The project is funded through a federal grant from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, as well as matching gifts from the University of Minnesota. In its final year of a three-year timeline, the project is looking to find funding in order to continue its services.

The article features BAP apprentice Salvador Patino, who works at Centro, one of the public compter centers located in South Minneapolis. He works in the lab helping users improve their use of cmputers. The article notes that having these on-site apprentices is what has set the computer centers apart from other options in the Cities. Patino make an astute observation…

“Unfortunately, I would say that the Latinos are the ones that are more behind in computers than other groups, so I’m trying to make them understand how important it is,” he explains.

The latest Census stats do indicate that while 76.7 percent of all households surveyed had a computer at home, only 66.6 percent of Hispanic-led households reported having a computer. Hopefully programs such as this will help close the gap. I think part of the solution is not only introducing new computers users to the computer, but finding a way in which the computer can immediately help fill a need. At Centro that may be their “odd English classes” …

Patino is particularly happy about a particular program that is used at the lab to teach Spanish speakers English. Many of his users are unable to speak English, and this causes them immense difficulties when looking for jobs and other similar pursuits. “We have a kind of odd English class, which uses YouTube videos, watching songs that have the lyrics in English and Spanish. That’s a major success. People love it and they come very often to do it,“ he describes. As it is not a structured class, it fits well into users’ busy lives, giving them access that they may otherwise not have time for. There is no time limit on BAP computers, which along with the emphasis on individual help, sets them apart from many other public computer labs.

Asian Media Technology Training Graduates 15 New Content Creators

I think that one of the strongest use of technology from a cultural perspective is the ability to give voice to traditionally unheard voices. So I was excited to learn about the program at Asian Community Technology Center …

Recently I was invited to speak at the graduation ceremony for the very first Asian Media Technology Training. That night the Asian community was overflowing with gratitude as supportive families of the graduates filled the audience of over 100 people. The 15 graduating students were honored and proud to be the first group to take part in this media training provided by the Asian Community Technology Center, with assistance from the University of Minnesota’s Broadband Access Project.

The training lasted six months and concentrated on teaching students the five most common ways to use media in today’s world. Topics of study covered how to put together a newspaper, how to craft interviews for radio broadcast, how to construct a website or a blog, how to develop social media strategy and how to create videos that can be used to transmit messages.