Atlanta extends Internet access to urban poor

The digital divide is still wide and deep, said Jabari Simama, executive director of Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell’s Office of Community Technology. But the city is working to close that gap through its Community Cyber Center program.

Simama spoke at last month’s E-Gov conference in Washington.

In the United States, 27 percent of blacks and Hispanics have access to the Internet, as compared with 49 percent of the total population, Simama said. There’s also an “attitude divide,” he said. Seventy-five percent of the poor in Atlanta don’t think Internet access is important.

Also, the urban poor are less likely to have Internet access than the rural poor. Nineteen percent of those who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits in rural Georgia have access to the Internet compared to 7 percent in urban areas.

For more than two years, Atlanta officials have been spreading Internet access via Community Cyber Centers in several low-income neighborhoods. Each of the 15 centers has 20 to 30 PCs tied to a T1 line.

Students at any age

The centers are funded by a public-private partnership, Simama said. The city received an $8.1 million grant from AT&T Corp. Gateway Inc. and EarthLink Inc. of Atlanta also provided PCs and Internet access.

About 10,000 Atlantans have taken classes through the centers, including a 92-year-old man, Simama said.

Some residents can’t make it to the centers, so the program sends a cyber bus to them. Equipped with 12 PCs, an instructor and driver, the 35-foot-long bus conducts computer classes all over Atlanta.

“To me, the revolutionary potential of the Internet is not the quantity of information it makes available,” Simama said. “It’s that it gives everybody a voice.

“When we first put a digital camera into kids’ hands, we tell them to find the oldest person in their neighborhood and interview them,” he said. When they return with the camera, “we’ll show them how to put the story on the community portal. They learn interviewing, writing, creativity and more.”

About the Author

Connect with the GCN staff on Twitter @GCNtech.


  • 2018 Fed 100

    The 2018 Federal 100

    This year's Fed 100 winners show just how much committed and talented individuals can accomplish in federal IT. Read their profiles to learn more!

  • Census
    How tech can save money for 2020 census

    Trump campaign taps census question as a fund-raising tool

    A fundraising email for the Trump-Pence reelection campaign is trying to get supporters behind a controversial change to the census -- asking respondents whether or not they are U.S. citizens.

  • Cloud
    DOD cloud

    DOD's latest cloud moves leave plenty of questions

    Speculation is still swirling about the implications of the draft solicitation for JEDI -- and about why a separate agreement for cloud-migration services was scaled back so dramatically.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.