With the number of Angelenos without online access in the millions, the City of Los Angeles Recreation & Parks Department has been looking to up its Internet ante.
Through its Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), the department has installed computer labs in recreation centers throughout the city. Seventy-six labs have been opened for public use, said Linh Vo, the department’s acting director of systems.
“We want to give the citizens the opportunity to have access to technology and help them improve their lives,” Vo said.
She said the project began in January 2010, and the department completed the last of the labs in December. Area centers participating include the Fairfax Senior Citizen Center, the Pan Pacific Senior Activity Center and the Yucca Community Center.
Each computer lab includes new computers, printers and high-speed Internet access, Vo said. She said adults and children alike are allowed to use the labs for anything from homework to job searches to paying bills. Thus far, the labs combined have seen 86,000 walk-ins, Vo said.
“We’re doing very well,” she said.
Additionally, the department has tagged 11 labs as training sites. Courses include lessons on using Microsoft Office 2010, e-mail and search engines. The classes have been well received, with 8,000 residents taking courses last year, Vo said.
“We expect another 8,000 by the end of June,” she added.
The Yucca Community Center is among the training facilities. Recreation coordinator Jovan Herron said the classes are full on a daily basis, though residents can join the waiting list. She said participants can take the classes multiple times.
“They can take the classes as many times as they need to until they become proficient in it,” Herron said.
She said the classes and lab are much needed in Hollywood, where there are plenty of residents looking for jobs or looking to re-enter society after stints in halfway homes. Herron said the computer access will increase their marketability.
“We focus on these sites to make sure everyone has equal opportunities,” Vo said, adding that all of the sites are in low-income areas and were approved by the city.
The BTOP program was paid for through $7 million of the city’s federal stimulus money, Vo said, though part of the funding was used to hire specialists to teach the computer classes.
The web content on the computer is filtered, and those with laptops can take advantage of the free wifi service at the sites.
The Yucca Community Center is located at 6671 Yucca St., and can be reached by calling (323)957-6339. Lab hours are subject to change, and residents should contact each center for hours of operation. To reach the parks department, call (213)202-2700 or visit www.laparks.org.
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