Economic Stimulus, Broadband Access, and the Nonprofit Sector
The U.S. federal government is now working aggressively to stimulate the U.S. economy. A key element of this program is the American Recovery and Investment Act, which includes substantial funding to extend broadband to unserved and underserved areas.
TechSoup Global believes that America’s civic hubs, our schools, libraries, health clinics, religious institutions, and nonprofit organizations, have a key role to play in extending broadband access in a scalable, sustainable fashion. We are engaging our partners in the nonprofit, corporate, and government sectors in this cause, and we invite your participation. Click here to find out more about our proposed work in this area, or download this PDF.
If you are engaged in a civic hub that provides some type of Internet access to your constituency, we invite your participation. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How We Can Help
TechSoup Global is the leading and largest nonprofit provider of technology assistance services to nonprofits and libraries in the United States. We’ve recently expanded internationally, and now work in 31 countries through partnerships with 16 international capacity-building NGOs. In 2008, our staff of 170, based in San Francisco, provided transactional services to almost 41,000 American 501(c)(3)s and served another 65,000 individuals with downloads, community forums, online content, webinars, and other forms of technology training and support.
Our work to provide donated and discounted software, computer hardware, and technical information and support to civic organizations is a way to jumpstart a civic channel for offering broadband access in underserved communities. Civic organizations can provide an ideal context for broadband consumer adoption – a context of computer literacy, education, workforce development, access to social and human services and other vital components of a strong community fabric.
Assets We Bring To The Field
Extensive Reach to the Nonprofit Sector
TechSoup Global has extensive reach in the U.S. nonprofit sector and beyond providing over 300,000 unique monthly website visitors with articles, worksheets, and other resources to help them make more informed technology decisions; and more than 107,000 nonprofits with discounted and donated technology products from major technology providers, including Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Symantec, Intuit, and Adobe.
Extensive Reach to Libraries
Our TechSoup for Libraries project uses a dynamic peer-to-peer learning strategy that helps librarians to support, maintain, and sustain public technology. Over the last two years, over 4000 how-to manuals were downloaded; more than 1000 case studies were distributed at conferences and through trainings; and over 1200 librarians and library staff attended at least one regional training.
Access to Refurbished Computers and the Computer Refurbishment Field
Refurbished Pentium 4 computers are an abundant, useful and affordable resource for connecting underserved communities to broadband and the information economy. Our Refurbished Computer Initiative provides reliable, warrantied desktop and laptop computers to U.S. nonprofits and libraries at the lowest possible cost via our TechSoup Stock platform. In addition, we administer the Community Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (Community MAR) Program in cooperation with Microsoft Corporation. Community MAR provides $5 Windows XP and Microsoft Office licensing to all PC refurbishers who supply computers to schools, charities, and low-income families. There are currently just under 600 Community MAR refurbishers in the United States. TechSoup also hosts the annual International Computer Refurbishers Conference.
Close Relationships with Corporate Philanthropy in the Technology Sector
Through our product philanthropy service, we have distributed over $1.5 billion in technology products to over 107,000 nonprofits around the world. Based on highly effective working partnerships with 40 major technology product providers, this service allows us to provide significant, tangible support to the nonprofit sector — for example, by providing at the lowest possible cost the technology equipment needed to effectively use broadband access, such as routers, switches, and firewalls from Cisco Systems, Exchange Server Enterprise Edition from Microsoft, and Backup Exec from Symantec Corporation.
Extensive reach to technology assistance providers
We have a long history of collaboration within the community of technology assistance providers. For more than 22 years, TechSoup has been a trusted knowledge base for technology assistance providers worldwide, from our collaboration with N-TEN to our TechFinder resource that connects organizations to local technical support. These collaborations have increased our reach and our understanding of the social sector’s emerging technology needs.
Development of successful online communities
Our active online communities provide a welcoming and engaging place to share and learn about technology and get support from technology experts. Community formats include the long-standing TechSoup community forums with 18 technology topics ranging from open source, hardware, and networking to technology planning and managing technology volunteers. Our other online communities reflect emerging technologies, including virtual world training at the Nonprofit Commons in Second Life and the bleeding-edge social media discussions found on the NetSquared community platform.
Leadership in the emerging field of deploying social media for social benefit
Through a complementary mix of events and resources, TechSoup Global’s NetSquared Initiative helps social innovators use emerging web-based tools to extend their impact. At monthly NetTuesday mixers (held in 47 cities in the United States and internationally), individuals gather face-to-face to share social media information and best practices. At our annual NetSquared Conference, we organize and support the NetSquared Challenge Award. Over the last three years, NetSquared has solicited more than 680 social benefit projects, paired them with the technology and operational expertise they need, and awarded $376,000 in direct financial support.
We are prepared to engage in a robust effort that draws on these assets to ensure that the organizations we serve are prepared for the opportunities possible through broadband access. Three potential avenues for support are outlined below:
1. Leverage our relationships with major corporations
We already have relationships with 40 major corporations, such as Microsoft, Cisco, and Symantec, that can provide organizations with the enterprise-grade infrastructure necessary to truly take advantage of the opportunities that broadband access will bring.
2. Provide technical training and assistance
It is not enough to help organizations access broadband product donations. We need to ensure that they access those donations in an overall environment of education so they can make smart technology decisions for themselves and the communities they serve. To do this, we will offer a series of trainings, webinars, articles, online events, and support forums dedicated to helping organizations select the appropriate technologies and use them in a way that maximizes their effectiveness.
In addition, we are in a position to help orchestrate human resources; mobilizing those who are ready, willing, and able to engage in this civic connectivity project. We are in the planning stage of creating a carefully vetted technical assistance provider network, allowing organizations that are providing broadband-related services to their communities access to expertise in:
- broadband technology deployment
- digital literacy
- workforce training
- public policy
The goal of this database is NOT to list every provider, but to create a highly selective list of top tier nonprofit providers with deep experience, strong reputations, and available capacity. Where possible, we will develop MOUs with listed providers to facilitate and speed the connection between broadband projects needing services and the service providers. Our goal is to bring the necessary training and support to communities so they are genuinely connected, can support their new infrastructure, and can work together to promote their own sustainable growth.
3. Create an ongoing community of support
Once we have provided the equipment, connectivity, and training to communities, the real work begins in weaving these communities together so they can offer support to each other. Imagine, for example, a trainer offering work force development in Olive Branch, Mississippi being able to share her training with a group gathered at a library in Flint, Michigan—not simply in a video-style presentation, but in a real back-and-forth conversation. These are the possibilities that broadband access can provide; real potential to share best practices, ideas, and experiences between civic organizations in the overall effort to enrich our communities. But it will take more than hardware and software to take advantage of this rich potential. It takes the creation of community.
TechSoup Global has a proven track record in community-building for civic and social service organizations. As part of a three-year initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to provide technical support for public access computing facilities in America’s public libraries, we created a thriving community of librarians and library staff to not only access our own training materials, but to provide ongoing support to each other. Through the project website, www.techsoupforlibraries.org, which is almost entirely comprised of user-generated content, they are able to connect with each other through forums, share photos, attend webinars, and exchange ideas and solutions to common technical problems. We discovered that peer-to-peer learning is incredibly effective for promoting sustainable best practices in technology use and service delivery for civic organizations. This kind of efficacy is what broadband connectivity should breed.
We also understand the power of face-to-face convenings to enhance virtual connections. Our NetTuesday meetings currently take place in 47 cities around the world and provide an opportunity for participants to share ideas, learn from each other, and even collaborate on projects at the intersection of technology and social change. We will leverage this experience to organize and facilitate additional meet-ups around the country, making sure that the organizations that are deploying broadband access in their communities are doing so in concert, learning from each others’ experiences and building upon each others’ successes.
For more information please contact
Marnie Webb, Co-CEO of TechSoup Global