Network gives neighbors variety of access

With the NeighborLink Network, Rochester residents can tap into a wide range

of technology options.

At 10 neighborhood sites, city-sponsored computer workstations offer

Internet access and software programs, including Microsoft Corp.'s Word,

PowerPoint, Excel, Access and FrontPage, as well as mapping tools. They

also provide Web links to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

and Census Bureau data and statistics, and information about government

departments, the city's comprehensive "Rochester 2010: The Renaissance"

initiative and how to get involved in the grass-roots planning effort called

Neighbors Building Neighborhoods (NBN).

The NeighborLink Network also features an online chat function, which

offers a discussion forum for the NBN sector groups. Periodically, the city

posts questions or surveys on the network to solicit opinions and perspectives

from designated users. The questions are geared toward improving NBN, according

to Vickie Bell, director of the Bureau of Neighborhood Initiatives.

Planned and developed in a year, the NeighborLink Network cost about

$100,000, which was covered by federal funding and included equipping nine

libraries and one community learning center with computer workstations and

printers. Each workstation comes with a step-by-step guide to using the

system.

City officials are taking pains to ensure that people have reasons to

keep coming back to the library-based workstations. Bell said the network

is becoming an electronic hub for people to find out about other community

resources and news; for example, Rochester Gas and Electric officials are

planning to post information about capital improvement projects through

NeighborLink.

Eventually, the city plans to provide school principals with a direct

connection to Neighbor.Link. Marjorie Lefler, the Rochester City School

District's liaison to NBN, said school officials eventually plan to use

the system to post summer reading lists and homework assignments and to

schedule parent/teacher conferences, recruit volunteers and announce school

events.

In communities with a large Hispanic population, Bell said the city

would try to offer NBN materials in Spanish.

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