Community Technology Centers given boost by Verizon

By ANN MCDONALD

The Ohio Community Computing Network recently received a grant from Verizon to aid in its goal to provide all Ohioans with access to technology.

The $50,000 grant will go to help the OCCN develop a Leadership Training Seminar for the staffs of community technology centers across Ohio as well as to help the OCCN to track down the community tecnology centers they are not currently in contact with in the state to connect them to the resources they need.

The OCCN was created to oversee the grants process of distributing funds to centers, but has expanded its focus to offer services in program development, resource development, communication and advocacy.

The OCCN has had a relationship with Verizon for many years as a result of an agreement between the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and Verizon that required it to provide funding for technology in rural areas of Ohio, according to Angela Stuber, executive director for OCCN.

This new grant, however, represents a new direction for the center's relationship with Verizon, Stuber said. Verizon agreed to give the OCCN the grant because it had developed trust in what the organization was doing, not because Verizon was required to provide the money, she said.

According to Todd Colquitt, president of Verizon Ohio, the company wanted to give the grant to the OCCN because of the important work the organization does.

"A trained workforce is critical for the success not only of individuals, but of businesses, such as Verizon," Colquitt said. "Skilled workers help communities attract and retain jobs, so everyone benefits from these community technology programs."

Stuber explained that community technology centers are a low-cost method of providing individuals with the opoortunity to use technology at their own pace, regardless of educational experience.

Visitors to the centers have access to GED test preparation, after-school youth educational programs, literacy education, career development, keyboarding skills and office-related software training, among other things.

The grant mainly will be used to support the work of community technology centers in Verizon service territories which mostly consists of rural areas, Stuber said. OCCN will be working on developing a Leadership Development Institute for staff of community technology centers in these areas.

Since community technology centers are a fairly new "phenomenon," Stuber said, there is a lot of uncertainty about how they should be run. The Leadership Development Institute would help staff at these centers with the issues they face and teach them about things other community technology centers are doing that could be useful for them.

The grant also will be used to help the OCCN track down other community technology centers that they may not be aware of throughout the state.

Currently, there are 60 community technology centers that are members of the OCCN, but Stuber said she believes there may be more out there that could use the assistance of the network, but do not know about it.

"There may be centers that are not aware there is a movement of computer labs out there," she said. "We hope to find centers that are open to the public and let them know about our resources."

-- reprinted from the January 24, 2003 edition of The Daily Reporter