NEWS RELEASE, 07/15/98

UC Berkeley program brings computers and the Internet to Oakland neighborhoods

By Tamara Keith, Public Affairs

BERKELEY -- Students in a new UC Berkeley program are teaching computer literacy, especially Internet use, to people in economically disadvantaged areas of Oakland.

Funded by a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Oakland Community Networking Project (OCNP) is training staff members at various Oakland community development organizations and libraries in Internet use and web page design.

"Our goal is actually to experiment with uses of the Internet and Internet tools such as mailing lists, chat rooms, and the web and their effectiveness within community development organizations," said Tamara Sturak, the project's director.

Six community-based agencies and four Oakland public libraries have participated in the OCNP since it started in January 1997. Four others joined the program within the last couple of months. Each site received a Pentium computer with Internet access and up to 500 hours of computer training and technical support from UC Berkeley graduate and undergraduate students. These students are known as student technology assistants.

"Something that I think is really important is that most of the (support) staff who are out there in the field doing this work are Berkeley students," said Sturak. "The students have been a big part of the story. To me it's really encouraging how much work the students can do."

The student technology assistants spent the first nine months of the program training staff members in basic computer skills. In some cases, before the program began, the trainees didn't even know how to turn on a computer, much less link up to the Internet. Today, they have created and can maintain web sites about their organization.

"We have focused our projects on working with the staff people of community development agencies in order to build among them a foundation of technology literacy," said Sturak. "Literacy is more than just knowing how to use the computer; it is knowledge from having traveled the Internet and understanding how best to use networked technology to communicate and promote community goals."

By training organization and library staff members, the OCNP enables these trainees to pass on their computer skills to community residents through classes in computer and Internet basics. They help residents use computers to produce resumes, prepare for high school equivelancy exams and search for jobs on the Internet.

"It's given us the ability (to) use computer technology to...find out what's going on not only nationwide but internationally on subjects like housing," said Don Davenport, executive director of the San Antonio Community Development Corporation, one of the non-profit organizations participating in the program. "In terms of the web site, its a way of getting ourselves out - not only to market ourselves but also to link up with other agencies that have the sorts of things that we need. This has opened up a new realm of doing outreach."

The OCNP is part of a larger UC Berkeley outreach effort - the Joint Community Development Program, which is run by the Institute of Urban and Regional Development. Other OCNP collaborators include UC Berkeley's Interactive University Project, Information Systems and Technology, the Berkeley Pledge, the University Library and the School of Information Management and Systems. The City of Oakland and the Oakland Public Library are also part of the project.

For more information on OCNP and links to the Oakland community organization web sites see OCNP's web page at:

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