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Making the Case for Technology Within the Community




Jan 8, 2001


Dr. Randal Pinkett

I will jump in by sharing our observations at Camfield Estates, a low-income housing development where we are conducting a study of the role of technology for the purpose of community building. There is also a fifteen computer CTC on the premises where courses are offered.

We are offering residents at Camfield a *free* new computer and *free* high-speed Internet connectivity via cable-modem, if they complete an 8-week training course. When the project started in September 2000, there were 66 occupied units at Camfield. Our first wave of marketing consisted of flyers and a town-hall meeting/reception to announce the project under the leadership of the tenants association. At that time, 33 units (50%) decided to sign up for the project. In other words, despite the aforementioned incentives, the remaining half of the development either did not see the relevance or simply were not interested.

This month, we have started a second round of marketing and sign-ups for the project. This included flyers again, a town-hall meeting/reception again, in addition to grassroots recruiting/resident testimonials at every holiday community event, along with telephone follow-up. Presently, there are 80 occupied units at Camfield.

Thus far, we have had an additional 20 units elect to participate in the project, bringing our total to 50 of 80 units (63%). Marketing efforts will end sometime this week. Clearly, these second-round participants are not the "early adopters" Beth described in her email, because they were not captured in the first round.

Thus far, among the residents that did not sign up for the first round, but signed up for the second round, we are finding that either: 1) they already had a computer and, therefore, did not move quickly on the first offer, 2) they thought it was a scam, or 3) they never read the flyer.

Thus far, among the residents that did not sign up for the first round or the second round, we are finding either: 1) they do not see any relevance despite the incentives ("I just don't want it"), 2) they are juggling entirely too many responsibilities to participate in training (e.g., single parents), or 3) they have health-related reasons why they are unable to participate (e.g., depression).

We have learned that there is a population at Camfield that we will never be able to reach no matter what we do. For those that were not the early adopters, it has required nothing short of going door-to-door to demonstrate relevance. General strategies such as flyers and word-of-mouth were only able to recruit, I'm guessing, half of the second-round participants. The remaining half of the second-round participants needed some form of personal, one-on-one, attention to get them on board.

We will have more detailed observations to share by the end of the month when the survey/interview data is compiled.


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