Wisconsin program hopes to spread computer literacy

MADISON — A Wisconsin nonprofit is trying to bridge the gap between people who have access to computers and the internet and those who do not.

DANEnet's Everyone on Madison program teaches a broad range of people, including older adults, parents who want to help their children with homework, immigrants and refugees, the Wisconsin State Journal reported .

"People with technology access and digital literacy skills have a megaphone, and their ideas and work gets amplified, and those without the skills don't get heard," said Alyssa Kenney, the program's director.

The program teaches how to organize files, navigate the internet, operate an email account and use social media. The classes are typically tailored to the skill level of the people enrolled.

"One of the parts that makes it so hard is that the populations are so wildly different," said instructor Lauren Kieliszewski.

While many of the lessons could be self-taught, having a structured class and an instructor can help those who get stuck, need support or want additional motivation, Kenney said. More than 250 people have completed the program since it began last year, she said.

LaShea Jackson knew how to work with computers a decade ago, but new technology is unfamiliar to her. She enrolled in the program to better perform her duties as a case manager.

"Everything is computer-based, and you want to know how to be in (a computer-based) society," Jackson said.

Running the program is expected to cost $115,000 next year, up from $72,000 this year. The program receives funding from the Madison Community Foundation, the Technology Education Foundation, the city of Madison, along with individuals and private businesses.

Kenney said money is "the biggest barrier" to digital literacy.

The program presents students with the opportunity to buy a low-cost refurbished computer if they attend enough classes. Students can buy a desktop computer, monitor, mouse and keyboard for $65. Students can then turn to Charter Spectrum and AT&T for low-cost internet.