Many non-profit organizations support people who need to learn new online skills, but lack the classroom technology to help them. These groups include neighborhood organizations, senior citizens, young people, underemployed populations, and ethnic and immigrant communities. Digital Charlotte is making a new portable technology laboratory available for these groups. After a non-profit organization partners with Digital Charlotte and completes training and certification, it can then check out and transport the lab to events in the community.
“Our mission is to empower organizations to deliver digital inclusion resources to their community,” says Andrew Au, director of community programs for Digital Charlotte. “By having this lab we can offer a full kit of laptop or tablet computers and wireless hotspots, where you can set up a whole classroom in a space where there’s no technology. If you are in a basement of an apartment complex, or you are in a conference room, you could set up everything and actually run a full-fledged class and be connected online.”
Depending on the needs of the group, the mobile lab could contain up to 32 Dell laptops equipped with the Windows Office suite, a projector, up to 22 Apple iPad tablets, Verizon wireless hotspots, and cables and accessories to connect everything.
To qualify as a Digital Charlotte partner and become certified in use of the portable lab, a non-profit organization must be using the equipment on a digital inclusion initiative. These could include neighborhood communication, vocational or employment development, online privacy and security, online skills development, and other activities. The organization must also enroll and participate in a 90-minute volunteer training class. The portable lab is offered at no charge for qualifying organizations.
Digital Charlotte partners also gain access to digital inclusion curriculum, use of facilities at Queens University of Charlotte and elsewhere, and participation in the development of future programs in digital inclusion. Examples of currently qualified groups include the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s University City Regional Library, and Queen City Forward.