The term “digital divide” refers to the gap between people who have access to information technologies and those who do not. Lou August is on a mission to bridge that gap, starting with the homeless community – a group severely affected by the lack of access to technology.
“The digital divide is the greatest in the homeless community,” says August. “It is virtually impossible to compete in the current job market without skills in technology. Even finding and applying for jobs is next to impossible without having access to a computer. Knowing the technology is important, but working with it is key,” according to August.
WildTech-CCNV hopes to bridge this digital divide.
Helping homeless people become technologically savvy is the cornerstone of Lou August’s business partnership between his technology company, Wilderness Technology Alliance, and D.C.’s largest shelter, the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV).
The idea behind the business model is to build a self-sustaining, technology company that is managed and operated by the homeless, while providing an outlet for D.C. businesses to take advantage of high-quality training programs and refurbished computer systems offered by WildTech-CCNV staff members.
Driven by the tremendous need for technology, the program’s existence is made all the more difficult by a lack of resources. So far, the program is very successful in shelter settings like that of the CCNV because it gives residents a way to fill idle time while providing real, work-based learning experiences that are not readily available to homeless communities.
Revenue is generated by technological services that staff members perform for businesses in the Washington, D.C. area. The revenue is split between the Wilderness Technology Alliance, the CCNV, and the homeless staff members. The Wilderness Technology Alliance and the shelter re-invest their portions of revenue to sustain the program.
The technology center located at the shelter provides training classes, job search skills, software training classes and Internet access to the nearly 1,000 residents of the shelter. The benefits of the technology classes offered at CCNV reach far beyond the people that reside at the shelter. A $99 computer class is offered every other Saturday to low-income residents of Washington, D.C. WildTech-CCNV endeavors to give each participant who completes the class a free, refurbished Pentium-4 computer.
Donations from D.C. area corporations and individuals are greatly needed to sustain this program. It is also vital to get the word out to non-governmental organizations, government agencies, school districts, and private companies that WildTech-CCNV staff members provide high-quality technology services at far below market rates.
An exciting new development is currently underway within the WildTech-CCNV community. A Technology Green Jobs Center is set to open in the Fall of 2009, located at 117 D Street NW, on the grounds of the CCNV shelter.
This technology thrift store will allow WildTech-CCNV staff members to collect computer components and recycle, refurbish, or sell them on Ebay. Branching out into e-commerce provides a promising outlet for the homeless community at CCNV. Besides learning new skills, the Technology Green Jobs Center can empower homeless people to become more financially independent and technologically confident.
If you would like to contribute resources or time to WildTech-CCNV, please contact Lou August at [email protected]. The Community for Creative Non-Violence is located at 425 Second Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20001.