Plugged In will introduce electronic networks to address the specific needs of a variety of underserved members of the local communities in East Palo Alto. Children in East Palo Alto need special programs to help "level the playing field" with children in neighboring affluent communities. Access to the Internet for information searches will open new vistas not only for homework assignments but also for job possibilities. Teens in the community suffer from a lack of challenging after-school activities; electronic teen discussion groups can help them develop job skills, leadership potential, and self-esteem. Community adults face a highly competitive and technically sophisticated marketplace in which Internet literacy is increasingly required. Low cost training in a supportive environment will address the problems of fear and educational disadvantage. Adults in recovery from substance abuse can share their successes with others in a way that broadens their support network and their sense of what is possible. Community leaders are currently cut off from resources available on electronic networks that would greatly enhance their organizational effectiveness.
The partners in this venture are technically skilled to provide a cost-effective and high-quality approach to introducing electronic communications to the community. Partners include non-profit organizations and corporations, including CompuMentor, Playing to Win, Families in Transition, Bay Networks and Global Village.
The project stresses access, training, and support for individuals unfamiliar with information technologies. For instance, in order to serve such a diverse population, with very different needs, the access centers will be open for drop-ins 70 hours each week. Plugged In takes advantage of the ultimate "open network," the Internet, using off the shelf hardware and software. By using the information infrastructure to address the concrete issues and problems that the community struggles with on a daily basis, Plugged In will develop a model for introducing communications technologies to low-income, urban settings.