Fortunately, there are ways to bridge the disparity between the underprivileged and computers. Many community, non-profit organizations have been formed with the intention of providing computers access to people in communities that have been left behind technologically. The main objectives of these programs generally fall into one of two categories: brining computing equipment into communities which have no access to computers and providing various types of training to individuals who will benefit from computer skills, or in some ambitious cases, both of the above.
The organizations dedicated to providing computing equipment do not simply donate old, useless, outdated computers. First of all these programs generally focus on more than just computers themselves, taking and making donations ranging anywhere from software programs, to pieces of hardware such as modems or printers, to entire machines. The computers and hardware are generally refurbished, and some organizations even use this opportunity to have people within the community repair the computers while concurrently giving them the skills they need to repair hardware and troubleshoot software problems for a living. Once the computers are repaired, they can be donated to non profit organizations which make the equipment accessible, or the program might help the receiving party set up the systems so that they can access the Internet. Although the main goal of these organizations is to provide computers to the underprivileged, many to have their own special goals. Some are determined to provide computer access to older individuals, such as people with small business who need computer access for everyday activities, or students in schools that can not afford to offer them technology along with their education.
While some organizations focus mainly on donating computers, others are more concerned with providing people of the community computer access. Most of these organizations have set up a program where people can come in and access computers for personal purposes, in addition to taking part in classes which teach computer skills. These programs are particularly unique because they strive to give underprivileged people both the technical and the social skills they need in order to be successful when acquiring a job. In terms of focus on younger individuals, classes are usually offered in word processing and operating systems so that they may become comfortable with computing systems. This way students will gain the self confidence, and will hopefully strive to find their role in society, rather than giving up on life and turning to alternative, less legal, methods of living. Some organizations even go as far as to work with prisoners, giving them skills that will allow them to secure decent jobs.
Although the goals of these organizations seems to fall under two categories, it is important to note that both types of these organizations recognize the need to provide Internet access to underprivileged individuals. With access to the information on the Internet, these programs hope people will become more educated and more aware of the technological state of society, which perhaps is not as apparent around them. Using tools such as email and the World Wide Web, people will be able to both communicate with and explore what has become an important realm of society that they might not have otherwise come in contact with.
The following pages describe the specific goals of various community organizations. They are separated into the two categories described above.