With computers, laptops, tablets, and smart phones, everyone one has a computer and is connected to the Internet, right? Not really. According to the United States Census Bureau, 62.4 percent of the population in the United States with a household income of less than $25,000 a year owns a computer, and only 48.4 percent use the Internet. Nonprofit Technology Resources in Philadelphia aims to change that.
“Stan Pokras started it. It was originally a media idea that started in the 1970s and it was all public media and it was all about being inner-connected with one another, executive director of NTR, Caitlin Kaspar said. “As it came about he decided to make computers the main source instead of media.”
Pokras is currently a member of the board of directors for NTR. There are four staff members and about 20 volunteers, but that number changes daily due to everyone’s availability. Nonprofit Technology Resources helps hundreds of people every year, according to Kaspar. NTR offers many programs such as Bring a Computer Ask a Question, and the new program LTT (Learning Through Technology), which will be started soon, is geared toward college students. The Community College of Philadelphia will pay the majority of the class cost. Students of the class will also get a computer practically for free. There will also be programs for all ages, including children.
The goal of all programs is to help people all over the city learn how to use computers and the Internet. Kaspar says the majority of people who utilize NTR’s services are men between the ages of 18 and 32. NTR also attracts volunteers participating in government programs, such as Welfare to Work. The majority of volunteers for Welfare to Work have been women who learn computer basics, and Kaspar admits she loved working with them. In 2013, 22.9 percent of Philadelphia residents earned income below the poverty level.The Welfare to Work program can change that by helping women learn the computer skills they need to obtain better paying jobs.
Kaspar also says NTR allows people to come in and get their computers fixed for free. When a computer can’t be fixed, people are directed to the Computer Thrift Store where refurbished computers are sold at half the price of a new computer. Computers not used are recycled. All of the computers donated are sold to fund the organization. A big contributor of computers is the Community College of Philadelphia, as well as local organizations, and individuals. Sometimes they get so many donations, NTR has to turn them down. According to World Internet Usage and Population Statistics, internet usage has increased by 190.4 percent in North America from 2000 to 2015. NTR can help people purchase low-cost computers to keep up with the rest of the world. Malcolm Shabazz volunteers every day refurbishing computers.
“I love the experience and the people. Good culture,” Shabazz said.
Kaspar says NTR has helped a lot of people through education get work. Regina Evans began as a volunteer through the Tech Ready program, which gave her IC3 certification for Microsoft Office. She became a cashier in 2009 at the Computer Thrift Store and now she is the store manager.
“I help train volunteers in the store and show people how to hook up their computers with purchase,” Evans said.
NTR had to cut back on some of its classes and programs because it lost some staff.
“We do not get government funding. The funding was for job readiness and they find us not job ready. Funding was cut,” Kaspar said.
Despite increased computer usage and job demand, many people are being left behind.