Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Role of CTCs 

Community Technology Centers (CTCs) use computers and technology as tools to serve the needs of low-income and under-resourced communities. The Community Technology Centers Network (www.ctcnet.org ) is a national member organization focused supporting the work of CTCs across the nation. At last count there were an estimated 400-600 Katrina relief shelters across the United States. Many of these are in communities served by CTCs.

Several leaders of the CTC community across the U.S. participated in a conference call this week. The purpose was to discuss the role of CTCs in both the short-term and longer-term ongoing relief efforts as America assists the evacuee community to get on with their lives and begin to build new lives in new hometowns.

Together, we agreed that CTCs do have a role in this effort. The short term role is to address the immediate needs of evacuees by assisting them to find loved ones, register for various relief programs and make the plans necessary to begin life anew. In the longer term, CTCs will have a role of training, public access to computing for the evacuee community and the implementation of programs to assist the evacuee community to effectively move on through life. Digital media projects with evacuee youth and young adults could assist evacuees to capture the personal stories of this tragedy in a way that brings healing and wholeness. Training programs to assist evacuees to gain specific skills, knowledge, and abilities for employment in their new hometowns will also be important.

In the immediate short term, the large relief centers with thousands of evacuees are being replaced by smaller centers in the hearts of neighborhoods. Many of these are served by CTCs. In the Houston area, Technology For All (TFA) will assist the smaller shelter sites to develop CTCs, if they are not established, and assist existing CTCs to develop effective programs to address the needs of our new neighbors.

We will be looking to our existing community partners to assist in this effort and will also seek the funding needed to build the capacity necessary to serve the estimated 100,000 persons who will remain as permanent residents of our city in addition to the regular clients of Houston area CTCs. These CTCs will need additional capacity and resources to serve their existing clientele as well as their new clients.

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