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One Economy, Part 2

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By Todd Cohen

Building on its efforts to connect low-income people to technology, and to develop online content they can use that technology to find, One Economy now has set itself the goal of creating a public internet channel.

The channel will focus on four types of information, starting with information people need during and after emergencies like Hurricane Katrina, says Ben Hecht, president and chief operating officer.

Like thebeehive.org, which likely will become part of the new channel, its website that features information and resources for low-income people about jobs, money, health and child care, the channel also will feature information and resources that low-income people can use to improve their economic livelihood.

And it will feature information about education and about civic engagement.

“Once you’re online and you see its power, you never go back,” Hecht says. “What we want to make sure of is that the nation has 21st century infrastructure for information for low-income people.”

Later this year, One Economy plans to launch the new channel in New Orleans and San Francisco, and aims to expand it in 2007 to serve a national market.

One Economy also plans to transplant its work abroad, and has teamed up with Intel and Cisco Systems to improve tech access and online content in South Africa and Jordan.

A goal in 2006 is to pilot a beehive in both countries, working mainly to help nonprofits there make the most productive use of technology in working with low-income people.

One Economy also plans this year to announce a partnership with Habitat for Humanity affiliates and a major telecommunications company.

The partnership will provide free broadband to all new Habitat homes built in America, along with a low-cost computer and training, and new content on the Beehive to help Habitat homeowners maintain their homes.

One Economy also has formed a partnership with Monster.com to give people using the Beehive more direct connections with living-wage jobs available through Monster.

For Spanish-speaking Beehive visitors, who represent 30 percent of the site’s monthly traffic, One Economy is designing content to better reflect their culture, needs and interests.

And it is undertaking a handful of initiatives to better track its impact.

Working with the Pew Internet & American Life Project, for example, One Economy will conduct a multi-year evaluation of Beehive use by low-income families in San Jose and in Miami to see how access to the Internet and the Beehive affects the way they work to improve their lives.

Working with Pew and with The Brookings Institution, One Economy also will track low-income use of the Beehive and internet nationally.

With a sponsorship by Citicorp, One Economy also is launching a new section on the Beehive focused on saving and investing.

And with a grant of nearly $400,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, One Economy is launching a new Beehive feature to help people deal with day-to-day issues such as diet and medication related to long-term diseases.

In expanding its goals, Hecht says, One Economy simply is building on its initial effort to push for public policies and create options for low-income people to get affordable technology, and also to develop online information they can use to help themselves.

“We’re taking what has historically been a very fragmented social-service delivery system, and neighborhoods where people are isolated from the economic mainstream,” he says, “and we’re using technology to overcome both those barriers.”


 Other stories is series: 

Part 1: Five-year-old nonprofit building low-income tech market

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