Technicity Times
    Issue 1 • November 2002


Community Technology Coalition Turns Up the Heat on Election Candidates.
by James Lau

The Children's Partnership (TCP), along with the California Community Technology Policy Group (CCTPG) and PolicyLink, has launched a campaign to survey all candidates in California about community technology. The campaign is designed to not only help voters make an educated decision about candidates at the polls this November, but also to help candidates learn about community technology issues and understand what is happening in their own communities.

The candidate survey will be sent to all candidates for state office (legislative and statewide offices) and congressional office to determine where candidates stand on issues related to providing access to and training technology for youth. Once the surveys have been completed, the results will be posted at for voters and all interested parties to view.

Elections of political representatives at the congressional, state and local levels offer community technology practitioners and activists an important opportunity to gain attention and support for their issues and programs. This is often true during tight fiscal times when important programs are jeopardized by budget cuts. For example, at the federal level, Technology Opportunities Program and the Department of Education's Community Technology Centers Program did not receive funding in the Bush Administration's proposed federal budget, but committed legislators and advocates have fought back to save these programs. Similarly, in Sacramento, legislation that would have created a grant program for community technology stalled, while the fate of similar community technology measures remains uncertain.

However, for elected officials to be responsive and supportive of the needs of community technology, the community needs to inform candidates about the importance and benefits of this work and to educate voters about where candidates stand on local technology issues.

The survey campaign is designed so that nonprofit organizations can make the most of this educational effort under the 501(c) 3 status. There are many ways voters and supporters of community technology can play a role in this campaign. Candidates are offered opportunities to learn more about community technology through briefings and a visit to a nearby community technology program, which means an opportunity for centers to interact with potential elected officials. Organizations interested in hosting a visit and briefing session with the candidates in their area can coordinate their candidate feedback via The Children's Partnership, CCTPG, and PolicyLink.

In addition to reading about candidates' views, voters can visit, and to see if the candidates in your area have responded to the survey. If they have not, place a phone call to their office to encourage them to fill out the surveys, since the candidates will be more responsive to voters living in their district. By reaching the candidates early and educating them about this issue, advocates of community technology can be cultivated within legislative bodies.

Although this involvement in campaign activity is a first for community technology, much can be learned from this process to refine it for future election cycles. As awareness of this issue grows and policymakers see both the benefits of these programs and the growing number of active supporters who care about them, community technology issues may gain increasing support within the policymaker circles and in the community.

James Lau is technology program manager for The Children's Partnership.