Connecting for Good mission is to spread the web

Photo courtesy Connecting for Good.

By Joe Lambe

Education – critical to lifting people from poverty – requires the Internet but too few poor people have it, the president of Connecting for Good said last week.

As the group nears the end of its first year, it has gotten Internet access to about 500 people in Kansas City and Kansas City, Kan., Michael Liimatta told the city council on Thursday.

Connecting for Good also recently moved to 3101 Troost Ave., where it provides computer training four days a week.

Photo courtesy Connecting for Good.

“Internet connectivity equals opportunity,” Liimatta said, education, job and social opportunities.

But his presentation pointed out some grim facts:

  • 25 percent of Kansas City area residents don’t have broadband at home.
  • 42 percent of those who don’t use the Internet have annual household incomes of less $25,000 and most live in low-income housing.
  • 46 percent of non-users are minorities.
  • 70 percent of Kansas City school district students do not have in-home Internet access.

Connecting for Good attacks the problem with a three-prong approach, he said.

They find ways to provide free or affordable broadband; they provide cheap, refurbished computer equipment; and they provide digital life skills training.

They also support Internet access at places outside the home, where people can take laptops and use them.

They sell refurbished computers to non-profits for $100, Liimatta said, and individuals who take two computer classes  can get them for $50.

“That way we know it’s not ending up in the pawn shop,” he said.

Perceptions that most poor people do not want computers are  wrong, he said. “We’ve been inundated with people wanting to learn and wanting the technology.”

In December, when they provided a free wi-fi network at the section 8 Rosedale Ridge apartments in Kansas City, Kan., over 20 residents signed up the first day for computer classes and the $50 computers.

In the first six months, he said, over 50 people took the classes and nearly all were single mothers in their 20s.

Before, only one teen there with a KCK-issued laptop could connect to the Internet at home, he said, and now 21 high school students there connect regularly.

Since then, Connecting for Good has provided wi-fi to Juniper Gardens, a 390-unit public housing project in KCK, and to Posada del Sol, a high rise for seniors at 17th and Summit streets, Liimatta said.

It is in discussions about providing it to five more projects, he said.

“What we need are partners, someone who says ‘we want this’ and we’ll find the money to help make it happen,” he said.

They also need more donated used computers or other electronics like tablets and smart phones.

“We’re really hungry for used computers, especially laptops,” he said, that people can take to libraries and public sites to get online.

On Saturday, Nov. 9, at 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the group has its next used PC drive at the Church of the Resurrection, 601 Northeast Jefferson St. in Blue Springs.

Such drives for donations are listed at its website.

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