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The MIT Media Lab, the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) and the Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) will join with the Camfield Tenants Association of Camfield Estates, a housing development in Roxbury, to celebrate the creation of a new community-based technological infrastructure program on Wednesday, Sept. 27 at Camfield Estates, 85 Lenox Street in Boston at 6pm.

The Camfield Estates-MIT Creating Community Connections project is a collaborative effort to address issues of the "digital divide," recently identified by President Clinton as the "key civil rights issue of the 21st century."

"We want the residents at Camfield to be fluent with technology. We expect to see them using technology as the creators and producers of information and content, rather than just consumers or recipients, in a way the truly builds the community," said Randall Pinkett, a graduate student at the Media Lab and a principal investigator for the project.

The project will implement strategies to close the digital divide in two ways.

First, the new program will bring computers and high-speed Internet access into the apartment units of each resident wishing to participate in the program. Those who choose to participate will be trained in computer and Internet use, and in a specialized web application developed at MIT -- the Creating Community Connections (C3) system -- that brokers connections among residents, local organizations, and neighborhood businesses.

And second, residents who participate in the Camfield Estates-MIT Creating Community Connections project will in turn be actively involved in running and building the program. A rigorous research agenda has been set to identify the critical success factors for using technology to build community and empowerment in a low- to moderate-income community.

Camfield Estates is a newly-renovated housing development of 102 units. Residents of 33 of the 66 occupied units are enrolled in the first training session of the Camfield Estates-MIT program.

A larger goal of the Community Connections program is to establish Camfield Estates as a model for other housing developments so that residents experience greater empowerment and self-sufficiency as they make productive use of information and communications technology.

Principal investigators of the project are Richard O'Bryant, a graduate student in DUSP, and Mr. Pinkett.

Faculty advisors are Professor Mitchel Resnick, Media Lab; Professor Joseph Ferreira, DUSP; Professsor Ceasar McDowell, director of the MIT Center for Reflective Community Practice; Professor David Gifford of LCS; and Philip Greenspun, a research scientist in LCS.

The following corporate and non-profit partners are supporting the project: W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Hewlett-Packard Company, RCN Telecom Services, Microsoft Corporation, YouthBuild Boston, ArsDigita Corporation, Williams Consulting Services, Massachusetts Housing Finance Authority (MHFA), US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the William Monroe Trotter Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.

For more information, please contact Randall Pinkett at x3-4191 or

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 20, 2000.

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