NAMIC Chapters Plan Tech Centers

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Two East Coast NAMIC chapters plan to open neighborhood technology centers in New York City and the Washington, D.C., area as part of the nonprofit group's ongoing Digital Divide Project.

The trade organization, which represents minorities in the cable and telecommunications industry, has already established two such centers in Santa Ana, Calif., and Chicago over the past two years.

The push to deliver computers and high-speed Internet access to underserved communities comes amid public debate about whether the digital divide may be narrowing.

If the Bush Administration succeeds in cutting federal grants to community technology centers, "the onus will be more on private funding," said Nancy Hom, principal of the Hom Team and a board member of the NAMIC Foundation.

Reports that the digital divide is narrowing are misleading, Hom contended. Although Internet penetration in Hispanic and African-American homes may be growing at a faster clip than in the mainstream population, that's only because those households were underpenetrated to begin with, she said.

Hom contends that the gap between the haves and have-nots is widening.

The Mid-Atlantic chapter of NAMIC is still in the early planning stages for its neighborhood technology center. It's talking to different community groups in Washington, D.C., to find the best fit.

The chapter plans to announce a nonprofit partner in the Washington area by September, said Comcast Mid-Atlantic marketing supervisor Brandon Phillips. NAMIC wants to find a location that best serves the community, as well as the personnel who can continue to oversee the computer-training program once the site is up and running.

Comcast will provide high-speed Internet access.

FUNDRAISING EVENTS

To help raise funds, NAMIC Mid-Atlantic will host a celebrity singles fundraiser in Washington on Sept. 27, allowing winning bidders the chance to spend a day or evening with a local celebrity.

NAMIC's New York chapter has earmarked funds to be raised at its annual gala on Dec. 11 to a neighborhood technology center it plans to sponsor in Harlem, according to Christina Pisano, a consultant for America Online and co-chair of the NAMIC New York public-affairs committee.

The chapter plans to designate the site for its Digital Divide project sometime in August, Pisano said. NAMIC wants a community center that already has an adult-learning program and a history of reaching out to Hispanics or African-Americans.

NAMIC will find a technology partner to donate personal computers, and Time Warner Cable will provide Internet service.

Targeting adults is key to getting technology into the home, where children can benefit, Pisano said.

"Some people don't realize how cheap you can get a computer these days," she added.

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