WHO — People who believe that the Internet is as much for community as it is for commerce. They think that the equitable access to learning, earning and communications is intrinsic to a just society. Such people dream of being able to use the web to work together for their own well-being, not just for commercial purposes alone. Education and training are crucial. Children in middle-class families in the U.S. and abroad are learning early to use computers (photo). LINCT helps teenagers and others who have not enjoyed this head start–whether in technology or learning in general.
WHAT — Learning and Information Networking for Communities via Technology. The LINCT Coalition works together with communities using cost-effective “Learn & Earn” programs that provide:

–Computer training for adults, youth, and families who lack access to training and computer-based jobs.
–Ownership of “learned and earned” computers. to provide access to community resources on-line.
–Refurbished/recycled donated computers that are learned and earned as “green PCs” (kept out of landfills).
–A community-based reward for volunteerism using Time Dollars, a tax-exempt “currency of caring.”
–At-home access for children and parents to on-line learning that improves school learning and adult job performance via eLearningSpace.org.

WHERE — Locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Everywhere, people can be linked together by modern computing and communications technology. The LINCT Coalition is made up of people who belong to organizations that actually have in-the-field programs. So LINCT is ultimately in communities working to make technology a liberating learning, earning and communications tool.

WHY — The need to bridge divides that disenfranchise. The still-present digital divide is a wake-up call to address with new urgency and creativity the deeply entrenched learning, earning, and community divides that made it inevitable. In other words, if the millions of families, youth, and communities being disenfranchised by the digital divide had the learning and earning power they lack, the digital divide would not exist. But it does exist, and it compounds disenfranchisement for all who lack the learning and earning power to bridge it.

This describes an urgent nationwide need. It is the need to empower communities, families, and youth with digital tools and skills needed to bridge the learning and earning divides that disenfranchise. Low-income communities are ready and able to meet this need. And the needed tools are readily available. Each year, the technology-rich side of the digital divide generates millions of used, but highly useable computers.

These millions of computers–fresh from the desks of millions of Americans who are already a part of the digital economy–can serve a second, socially valuable purpose as highly motivating and empowering digital tools for disenfranchised family and youth who need to learn and earn their way across entrenched educational and economic divides. Since 1995, a nationwide coalition of nonprofit organizations and businesses has developed a successful community-managed learn-and-earn model though which thousands of low-income adults and youth have earned computers.

The most capable of these learners are then trained to mentor other people and communities to turn donated business computers into motivating learning and earning tools for other families, youth, and for community networking of people-to-people services. This communities-mentoring-communities strategy is producing a community-generated mentors capable of motivating empowering others to turn thousands of 2-to-3 year old donated computers (currently mid-level Pentiums) into “learned and earned” home computers that can improve the learning power of youth and the earning power of parents.

By mentoring such programs in many more communities, millions, rather than thousands of technology-poor families will be helped to digitally empower themselves. The initiating, motivating and empowering key to the success of this community-based mentoring of youth and families is the earning a home computer by learning to use it effectively as a learning-and-earning tool. By failing to heed the wake up call to digitally-empower disenfranchised families to bridge America’s education and economic divides via their own learning and earning, we fail them and their need to develop their capacity for lifelong learning and earning in the digital age.