Portland Youth Experience WiMAX “Outside the Walls”

The “Digital Divide” as we understand it doesn’t just exist in rural or third-world countries. The possibility to bridge this Divide can be realized in our own backyard, and WiMAX wireless Internet broadband here in Portland is helping us reach that potential. This past week, I attended the re-opening of the Moore Street Intel Computer Clubhouse in North Portland. At the event Intel donated six Acer Aspire One netbooks with the 4G technology to the clubhouse, complete with Clear WiMAX service provided by Clearwire.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the program, the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network was founded by the Boston Museum of Science and the MIT Media Laboratory to help young people explore and develop a variety of technological and creative endeavors. As I walked around the Clubhouse in Portland, I was amazed at what the kids were working on… everything from 3D modeling and rendering to game development software. And in most cases, they were teaching the adults how to use the programs.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Clubhouse director, David Walker.  He talked to me about a program they are calling “Community Connections,” made possible in part by the donation of the netbooks.

The program will allow Clubhouse members to get “outside the walls,” and use WiMAX to develop a mobile curriculum including real-time social networking, engaging with the elderly to bridge the “age” digital divide, and promoting urban renewal through the documentation of the neighborhood’s history.

With state-of-the-art equipment like the desktops and netbooks donated, the clubhouses can provide hands-on training in a variety of creative and technical skills, including video production, music, graphics, web design, animation, robotics and creative communication. In addition to valuable computer and digital technology skills available through the clubhouse, young people can also participate in activities to help with college prep and career development.

It’s great to be a part of a movement and technology creating so much opportunity for less fortunate communities. Have any great ideas for how WiMAX can make a difference? Comment!