Mayor Nutter and City Council announced earlier this week at the The Mayor’s Commission on Literacy‘s annual Technology and Adult Education Conference that they would work together to continue funding for the KEYSPOT initiative, a public-private network of computer labs designed to increases digital access for all of Philadelphia.
Though City Council still has to approve the funding, this display of support provides a level of certainty for a program that has steadily shrunk since running out of federal funding at the end of 2013. The original funding came from an $18 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus package.
There were a total of 79 computer labs scattered across the city at the program’s peak. Now there are 47. About half of these are managed by the city. The rest are managed by by nonprofits such as the People’s Emergency Center, Philadelphia FIGHT and the Urban Affairs Coalition.
For the current fiscal year, the city designated $624,095 in funding for 19 KEYSPOT locations through the Department of Parks and Recreation, four through the Free Library and 10 through private nonprofits. The latest announcement by the Mayor and City Council is a commitment to continue this degree of funding for fiscal year 2015, according to Jennifer Kobrin, associate director of the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy.
The city had attempted to leverage philanthropic money to fund a greater number of locations, but a deal with a large national foundation fell through, as Generocity reported in August, 2013.
There are other factor that have contributed to the decline in KEYSPOT. Some of the nonprofits who received funding from the federal grant sub-contracted to smaller community organizations to create more computer labs beyond their capacity. Philadelphia FIGHT, for example, had 29 computer labs in its network at one point. It now manages just one, according to an updated list of locations provided by the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy.
There are still 14 nonprofits who have stayed in the KEYSPOT network despite receiving no federal or city funding.
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“They’ve committed to staying in this program because they want to be a part of it, which is really a testament to the program that has been built over the last few years,” Kobrin said.
Kobrin added that the city will continue to seek additional funding to expand the initiative, which has provided 208,780 hours of training to 22,544 participants, according to the KEYSPOT website.
“This is drop in the bucket compared to what the original federal funding was, but we are doing our best to leverage it to get additional support,” she said.
Image of KEYSPOT locator from KEYSPOT website-30-
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