Community technology center
A community technology center or CTC offers resources to help bridge the digital divide, primarily through the public accessing computers and the internet. These centers are a key part of what is now being referred to as digital inclusion programs. Many centers provide training that ranges from basic computing skills to digital media production as well as applied skills (e.g. online job searching). While some CTCs are freestanding operations, many others are located in public libraries, schools, social service agencies, neighborhood centers, and religious centers. Many organizations that provide their participants and local community with technology access and training do not think of themselves first as ctc's, but share common services and needs.
There are thousands of these education centers located across the world. Outside the U.S. they are also called by the name Telecentre. In the United States, more than 1,000 community technology centers are organized under the leadership of CTCnet, a nonprofit association headquartered in Washington, D.C. CTCs are also organized under the banner of state organizations, such as the Ohio Community Computing Network.
There are also CTCs located in the state of New South Wales, Australia, that provide technology, resources, training and educational programs to communities in regional, rural and remote areas. Some cities operate community technology centers and/or provide financial support to these programs. One example is the City of Seattle Community Technology Program.
What do Community Technology (CT)programs accomplish? CT programs increase residents’ self-sufficiency and capacity to learn, develop their skills and talents, and help people more fully participate in community and civic affairs. The result is a more educated community, more able workforce, safer and better connected community. CT programs also help develop consumers of information technology products and services.
How is Community Technology supported? CT programs are often supported by a patchwork of resources and are often undercapitalized. Organizations running CT programs are often very successful leveraging and extending the resources they have. There are very few technology-centered grant programs. Organizations (and volunteer boards) often secure funds through a combination of fundraising events, donations of products and services, volunteer labor, specific program grants, and some revenue generated programs. The mix varies considerably depending upon the capacity and nature of the organization, setting and services provided.
The application of information and communications technology to education, human services, workforce training, civic engagement and community development is a rapidly evolving (and relatively young) field. Just as in the development of technology for the business sector, this takes training, strategic planning, and strategic investment. Successful CT programs are integrated into regular programs and service delivery, but this requires the development and sustainability of specific expertise, program content and infrastructure.