Youth Focus

March 1, 2002       Todd Cohen      

Giving young people greater access to the Internet and digital technology is the focus of a new initiative being coordinated by The Children’s Partnership in Santa Monica, Calif.

Known as the Young Americans & the Digital Future Campaign, the initiative is a collaborative effort among national and regional groups targeting state and local policymakers and business and civic leaders. The campaign, to last several years, initially will distribute data and information tools to connect state leaders with local schools, community tech projects and other efforts that can be models for delivering technology to youngsters, particularly those who are poor or underserved.

The campaign then will serve as a technical resource and advocate to help develop tech policies.

The Children’s Partnership, a national research and advocacy group, has developed an online toolkit featuring national and state-by-state data on Web use by children and families, national and state agendas for tech policy and resources for policymakers. The campaign is being launched in the face of declining federal support to address the “digital divide” between those with access to technology and those without access, said Wendy Lazarus, executive director of The Children’s Partnership. Federal spending for community technology centers fell 41 percent to $64.9 million in fiscal 2002 from $110 million in fiscal 2001, she said. At the same time, she said, states and cities “are finding inventive ways to deploy existing funding or programs or staff toward valuable tech initiatives.”

Nonprofit newswire
A four-year-old news service that feeds nonprofit news releases to news organizations and databases is growing and rolling out new features. AScribe, a for-profit firm in Oakland, Calif., has 500 subscribers for which it has distributed more than 13,000 news releases, said David Irons, AScribe’s vice president and co-founder.

Using the facilities of the Associated Press, the firm distributes news releases electronically to the newsrooms of nearly 100 daily newspapers. It uses Internet technology to reach weekly news magazines, online and specialty publications and database services. Reporters can download news releases from an electronic AScribe basket on their computer screens.

Approximately 60 percent of AScribe’s subscribers are colleges, universities, academic medical centers and graduate professional schools, Irons said. The others are foundations, think-tanks, public-policy groups, associations, arts and cultural organizations, public-relations agencies and consultants representing nonprofits.

AScribe, which sells no advertising, charges $125 for a year’s membership, plus a subscription package ranging from $500 for 10 releases to $1,600 for 40. News organizations and freelance journalists get AScribe’s news releases for free.

The firm now has launched a service that, for $125, distributes a single news release within an hour of receiving it. It also has launched a twice-a-month NewsWatch newsletter that alerts nonprofit subscribers to future events and activities that might provide a good opportunity to issue a news release.

With $1.5 million from investors to cover its first five years, AScribe has seen daily traffic grow to as many as 50 news releases from less than half a dozen after it was launched in March, 1998, Irons said, and it expects revenues this year to total $500,000.

Digital impact
Two new studies map the impact of technology on nonprofits – and the hurdles they face in using it.

Most human service nonprofits use technology and say it has changed, improved and had a major impact on their work, according to the results of a survey commissioned by Independent Sector, a nonprofit trade group in Washington, D.C., and San Jose-based Cisco Systems.

A separate study by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a research and advocacy group in Washington, D.C., shows more targeted investments in technology could benefit most nonprofits, but “few foundations have a clear strategy for making those investments.”

“Wired, Willing and Ready,” the study by Independent Sector and Cisco, reports that most nonprofits want to make better use of technology but believe that keeping up with advances in technology is tough.

The telephone survey of more than 200 executives at human service nonprofits by Princeton Survey Research Associates found that 86 percent of nonprofits use some form of information technology, 84 percent say it has changed daily operations in the past five years and 51 percent say it has changed operations a lot.

And while 51 percent responded that improving their technology is a priority, only 39 percent have a tech budget and only 28 percent have a strategic plan for technology.

“Beyond Access,” the study by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, reports that closing the gap between organizations that can use information technology to further their missions and those that can’t “requires going beyond access to equipment and helping nonprofits fully integrate IT tools into their ongoing operations.”

Tech grants focus on equipment and short-change tech training, assistance and maintenance, according to study results. And while grants back interactive online services, it reports, nonprofits and foundations “still could benefit from increased understanding of how online resources can enhance their impact.”

Tech security
Information technology is critical to most nonprofit work, yet nonprofits typically fail to protect their hardware, software and data, according to a new survey by NetAction, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that focuses on Internet advocacy and tech policy.

Only 4 percent of 134 nonprofits responding to the survey, for example, encrypt all sensitive files, nearly two-thirds keep sensitive files on computers connected to a local network, and nearly half keep them on computers connected to the Internet.

Computer users in nearly one-fourth of the nonprofits surveyed do not routinely lock or turn off their computers when away from their desks, and eight of 10 indicated that volunteers, interns, outside consultants and/or temporary staff have access to office computers.

Industry notes
As part of a $25 million to provide technology assistance in 13 cities by the end of 2003, Microsoft has launched affiliates of Seattle-based NPower in Atlanta, Indianapolis, Michigan, New York, San Francisco and Portland, Ore. …

The annual conference for “circuit riders” who provide tech help to nonprofits will be held April 11-14 in Orlando. For information, visit nten.org/stories/storyReader$25 … ”

Advancing a Community Technology Agenda” will be the focus of the 11th annual conference June 14-16 in Austin, Texas, of CTCNet, the national network of community technology centers. For information, go to ctcnet.org…

San Francisco-based TechSoup, a Web site featuring nonprofit tech information and resources, said it received 149 million donated banner-ad impressions — ads, each viewed by a single person, linked to TechSoup’s site from the sites of the donors — worth $1.9 million. An initial drive generated an eight-fold boost in visitors to more than 165,000 a month, TechSoup said.

Todd Cohen is editor and publisher of Nonprofitxpress, an online newspaper at www.npxpress.com. He can be reached at tcohen@ajf.org

 

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