Here is the quick take:
What Does the Computer Commuter Do?
The Computer Commuter provides digital inclusion by traveling 150 miles weekly, visiting six different sites in LqP County, providing digital literacy by offering on-site, one-to-one assistance. We served 1047 people last year. People generally stayed for more than an hour per visit – in fact 1400 hours of computer were clocked in on the bus.
What Does It Cost?
The Computer Commuter operating budget is $24,000. We get funding from Adult Basic Education, Madison Public Library and Dawson Public Library (Thank you to all!) but it doesn’t cover expenses.
What Do We Need?
We need $900 per month ($10,800 annually) to keep going. We are applying for a range of grants but grants are precarious. We are hoping that the County Commission will support the Computer Commuter. We coudl use your help. If you think the Computer Commuter is a worthy investment, please let them know.
We are passionate about what we do because we see the difference we make in the community. LqP is one of the best wired counties in Minnesota but it’s only helpful when all of our citizens participate. Through the Computer Commuter we are able to serve the demographic that has proven to be most difficult to reach – older folks and low income residents.
- Visitors come for the computer and internet access – “If we want to use the internet at all, the only cost effective way to do it is to come up here on Tuesday on Computer Commuter and use the computer for four hours.”
- Visitors come for a safe learning environment – “Sometimes you feel like you want to ask something but are afraid everyone will laugh so you don’t ask.” “As adults we think that we don’t want to show our ignorance.” “When you come it’s not intimidating. And if you do make a mistake she [Mary] can help…or get you out of it.”
- Visitors come to keep in touch with family – “If I didn’t do the Facebook, my nieces and nephews, I’d never hear from them. They’re not going to talk…even though I can send them something and say, ‘it’s paid, just call me’ they don’t do it. Or they don’t write letters, but they email and they’re on Facebook.” “My son travels all over the world and if I want to know what he is doing I have to look [online].”
Originally the Computer Commuter’s main goal was to provide free access to computers, internet and help for displaced and under-employed workers, but we quickly became the hot spot for seniors to congregate, socialize and gain confidence using technology. It’s ironic because it’s a demographic many other communities are trying to reach. We are reaching them. We are improving their quality of life by meeting them where they are, teaching them how to use the tools ( from iPads for Christmas to castoffs from relatives), helping them gain comfort and confidence using technology.