Monday, 14 April 2014

Building Connected Communities: Arts Tech in Kansas City

Ed. Note: Every day, nonprofits and community leaders across America do inspiring work to help their neighbors learn about the web, build digital literacy skills, get access to affordable computers and more. From time to time, we’ll invite some of these organizations to submit guest posts to our Google Fiber blog — starting today, with Dave Sullivan, the Executive Director of a nonprofit called Arts Tech, in Kansas City. Arts Tech has built a new program to bring together tech-savvy teens and seniors who want to learn about the web.

When I talk to seniors — folks who are 65 or older — about the Internet, I get a mix of reactions. Some of them regularly rely on email, video chats and the web to stay in touch with family and find information. But most seniors I meet have rarely, if ever, used computers or the Internet before.

So last year, when several local companies created the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund, the first-ever pool of money available here for nonprofits who want to close the digital divide, it gave me an idea. Of the people in Kansas City that don’t use the Internet at all, 44% are seniors — there’s a real need there. And on the other hand, 93% of teens use the Internet regularly — which presents a real opportunity. What if we could close a technological and generational gap at the same time?

I pitched the idea of a cross-generational digital literacy training program to the colleagues and students I work with at my nonprofit, Arts Tech. My colleagues were excited by the idea; after all, it fits right in with our mission to help urban teens develop technical skills. But I was really blown away by the excitement and enthusiasm our teens showed. Dozens of them said they’d want to participate in a program like this.

So we applied for, and received, a Digital Inclusion Fund grant — and today, 19 students from Hogan Academy are training to become intergenerational digital literacy experts. After students graduate from this program, they’ll be paired up with local seniors, to help them learn about the web in 1:1 or group training sessions.

This isn’t a walk in the park for these teens; we’ve pulled together a pretty rigorous 60-hour training program. Instead of sleeping in on Saturday mornings, students join us to learn about computer hardware, in-home networking, the Internet and computer software. They’re also learning how to work with seniors, and how to develop their very own digital literacy curriculum (like planning classes on how to create email addresses, and how to use social networks to connect with friends) that they’ll be able to teach by the end of the program.

My ultimate hope for this project is that its spirit of intergenerational learning spreads beyond our lab of laptops. Already, I’ve seen students, seniors and local partners pitch in to make this program happen. We all have a role to play, and working together I really believe that we can build a more digitally-inclusive community in which students, seniors and more are available to continually learn from each other.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Introducing Coffee-to-the-Home

We often hear stories from our customers about how Fiber has become a part of their daily lives — and one of the themes we’ve seen is that Fiber and coffee often go together. Whether folks are watching the morning news or reading email, it turns out that many of them often have a cup of coffee in-hand. This got us thinking — what if we could make it easier and faster for coffee-loving Fiber customers to enjoy both? We consulted java junkies, renowned roasters and cupping connoisseurs across the US and came up with our brand new, Coffee-To-The-Home (CTTH) program.

The key insight behind CTTH is pretty simple: as long as we’re already doing thousands of miles of construction to pull fiber lines throughout cities, why not invest in a coffee network, too? From now on, as we bring fiber throughout a city, we’ll also install pipelines that hook up homes to local baristas via a “hot beverage backbone” (HBB). The HBB will travel in parallel with our FTTH (fiber-to-the-home) network, to deliver CTTH. So, HBB + FTTH = CTTH. Easy.

In order to activate your Coffee-To-The-Home feature (or, in Provo, the “Hot Chocolate-To-The-Home feature), simply download or open your Google Fiber App on your mobile phone or tablet, and click on “Coffee” in the menu. Then, just tap on the beverage you’d like. Your order will be sent to a barista, who will make your drink and transmit it back to you along the HBB. All you have to do is grab your favorite mug, go to your home’s new “Fiber Spout,” turn the nozzle and enjoy your made-to-order drink of choice.

We’re piloting this service on a limited basis for customers now but hope to roll it out to all Google Fiber subscribers soon. For more information, or to sign-up for this new service,visit

Update: April Fools! Unfortunately, we won't be delivering coffee to Fiber customers' homes — for now. But who knows what we'll be able to deliver with a gig in the future?