Brief History of CATNeT
When and how CATNeT was established:
The idea behind CATNeT began in multiple places at multiple times but the organization of the coalition began with a meeting at Hope Manor, a low income housing complex, managed by Vistula Management. John Kiely of Vistula Management organized the meeting because he had met and heard about so many organizations and individuals in Toledo concerned about technical inequality.
In 1996 Vistula Management successfully applied for $200,000 of HUD (Housing and Urban Development) funding from the Neighborhood Networks program in order to establish computer labs in six Vistula low-income housing sites. As John Kiely from Vistula Management was telling others about Vistula’s computer project, he found a multitude of organizations and institutions interested in the same issue, that is, equal access to technology. In the fall of 1996, he invited these people to a meeting to discuss our common concerns. Over 30 community-based organizations, institutions, and residents of Vistula’s low-income housing sites offered a description of their program or their perception of the equal access issue. The result was a decision to meet again to discuss how to collaborate and tackle the issue.
Dr. Randy Stoecker, a sociology professor and Urban Affairs Center research associate at the University of Toledo, and his graduate assistant, Angela Stuber were invited to the meeting based on their involvement with the Toledo portion of the UUNN – Urban University and Neighborhood Network. The UUNN’s first research project had focused on the computer and technical access that community groups do not have. With the financial and technical support of the Urban Affairs Center, Stoecker and Stuber began organizing the meetings of the group that would eventually be called CATNeT – Coalition to Access Technology and Networking in Toledo.
CATNeT’s mission is to promote universal access to technology. To do this, CATNeT facilitates access to computers and the Internet, and to the training and technical assistance needed to use that technology, so that end users can become information users and providers. As part of our mission, end users are involved in all CATNeT decision-making.
Accomplishments to date:
CATNeT’s biggest accomplishment has been bringing together its various partners to share resources and needs. CATNeT holds monthly meetings of 15 to 40 people present at each meeting. The location of the meetings varies to allow the partners to experience each other’s facilities and computer labs and to allow a variety of the users to more easily stay involved with CATNeT. In Randy Stoecker’s evaluation of CATNeT he states, "Among the strengths most noted in the CATNeT SWOT analysis, CATNeT’s ability to identify and make the most of challenging opportunities, its development of a stable organization base and committed membership, and its ability to bring together diverse people to achieve concrete goals stand out" (evaluation available upon request).
CATNeT has assisted the operational and the developing public computer labs in the following ways:
- coordinated the communication among the labs
- coordinated the sharing of training information
- helped write individual lab grant applications (W.J. Murchison Center – successful grant application, Northgate Apartments – successful grant application, Cherrywood Apartments – non-successful grant application)
- provided the below trainings to the lab management and users
- coordinated lab volunteers
- provided labs with technical assistance
Operational public computer labs in Toledo:
- BDPA (Black Data Processing Associates) Lab at the Frederick Douglass Community Center
- Hope Manor
- Friendly Community Center
- Maurine Simmons Family Investment Center
- Madonna Homes
- Michaelmas Manor
- Moody Manor
- W.J. Murchison Community Center
- University of Toledo Eberly Center for Women
Developing public computer labs in Toledo:
- Adelante, Inc.
- Northgate Apts.
- Sofia Qintero Hispanic Art and Cultural Center
- Volunteer-led hardware and software trainings – From February, 1997 through the present CATNeT has organized various trainings on the Internet, web development, Windows, Word 97, basic PC usage, and PC hardware. All of the classes were taught by volunteers for CATNeT Volunteer Trainers (who were then asked to volunteer their time at a public lab). The classes were taught in University of Toledo labs and at the low-income housing complex Michaelmas Manor.
- TIGER Training – Three classes provided by the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library in September, 1997 taught how to use the Internet, TIGER, the library’s card catalog, and the library’s other resources.
- Windows Training – Two 8-hour classes held in September, 1997 taught basic PC troubleshooting and Windows. The training was provided by Training Solutions, Inc. at the Chrysler-UAW Training Center.
- Non-Profit Web Development Training – One class held on 4 successive Saturdays in September and October, 1997 to teach volunteers from non-profit organizations how to create web pages. The training was provided by the Information Technology Department of the University of Toledo.
In addition to coordinating the efforts of the labs and coordinating the various trainings, CATNeT has also:
- Created a computer recycling center at Michaelmas Manor in April, 1997.
- Distributed and helped upgrade the 63 donated 486-33 computers donated by OCF.
- Brought Doug Schuler from the Seattle Community Network to Toledo as a University of Toledo guest lecturer and CATNeT consultant in April, 1997.
- Set up a booth with laptops at the Ottawa Coalition Family Fair in May, 1997.
- Matched 11 non-profit organizations with students from Dr. Randy Stoecker’s Sociology of the Internet course, winter semester, 1998. For course credit, the students created web pages for the organizations.
Current Programs and Services:
- Volunteer Trainers Program – CATNeT organizes various computer training classes with the intent that the trainees will in turn train others. The classes are provided free of charge by businesses, organizations and individuals. Our goal is to organize enough classes taught by professionals that eventually the Volunteer Trainers can teach all CATNeT computer classes.
- Non-Profit Web Development Program – CATNeT organizes web development classes for non-profit organizations and then helps them publish their web pages to the World Wide Web. For non-profits who need a place to publish their web pages, CATNeT assists the groups in publishing the web pages on MetroNet.
- CATNeT encourages communication among those interested in universal access. We organize public monthly planning meetings and numerous special topic meetings that allow individuals and organizations to compare programs and share resources.
- CATNeT encourages use of the Internet as a means of finding and providing information. This includes encouraging non-profits to create web pages which are useful to others.
- For any interested groups, CATNeT will do a presentation about CATNeT and the public computer labs in Toledo.
Public Computer Labs
- CATNeT assists the lab managers and users with lab creation, computer usage, hardware and software troubleshooting, lab management, trainings, and fundraising.
- CATNeT publicizes the locations of public computer labs in Toledo.