Voices From the Lab: Bridging the Digital Divide Requires More Than Just Technology

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Austin Free-Net’s ever-expanding reach has grown to a total of 168 computers in 26 sites around Austin, but simply providing technology to the community is only the beginning. To empower our clients to bridge the digital divide, we also rely on the work of compassionate, knowledgeable people. That’s where our trainers and dedicated volunteers come in.

Our clients, many of whom are using a computer for the first time in their lives, often require one-on-one assistance to develop the skills they need to take full advantage of the opportunities that computer technology and Internet access have to offer.

“Sometimes, it’s not just learning how to operate a computer, but it’s convincing our clients that they are able to learn – that they are not helpless – that makes the biggest difference in their lives,” says Director of Programs and Training Lori Williams. “Our staff and volunteers give them the tools and skills to operate computers, plus we help them acquire the confidence they need in order to attack the very real and serious life issues they face. Our volunteers encourage our clients to learn!”

As the demand for our services grows and the labs fill up, it becomes more and more challenging for our limited staff of Trainers to serve everyone in need, making the help of volunteers even more vital to our clients’ success. Many AFN volunteers donate around 2-3 hours weekly, and all volunteers are free to donate as little or as much time as they’re able.

“Our volunteers are our lifeblood,” says Nancy Green, Partner Relations and Volunteer Coordinator, whose work is dedicated to strengthening our volunteering program. “They allow us to expand our services so we can touch a greater amount of Austinites. Giving back to our community by volunteering changes lives.”

For more information on Austin Free-Net, click here.

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