Celebrating an anniversary
By Henrietta J. Burroughs
East Palo Alto Today
Posted February 18, 2010
The Community room in the Municipal Building in East Palo Alto was full as presenters, honorees and their supporters attended the evening dinner to celebrate the 10th anniversary of East Palo Alto's Digital Village. EPADV, as it is also known, was founded to close the digital divide that existed between East Palo Alto and its more affluent neighbors by getting more of the city's residents on the digital highway.
EPADV's celebration dinner, which was held on February 9, was designed to look back at the progress EPADV has made since its founding. The dinner was also held so its members could share information about its projects with the invited guests, honor those who made that progress happen and get the audience's feedback.
EPADV, itself, started in 2000 as one of One East Palo Alto's working groups.As OEPA's tech collaborative, it consisted of community agencies, small businesses, schools and government institutions. At the time, its goal was to build the community's technology infrastructure and address some of the pressing technology needs of the city's residents.
In describing where the city stood with respect to technology ten years ago, the affair's moderator Dr. Faye McNair-Knox, who is the current executive director of OEPA said, "We knew we were so far behind, we knew we would have to leapfrog."
In 1999, when EPADV came into being, it was recognized that East Palo Alto had the highest percentage of individuals living below the poverty threshold in San Mateo County. According to the statistics, 30 percent of adults aged 25 and over had less than a ninth grade education and the unemployment rate, at the time, was more than twice the overall county rate. It was a time when East Palo was considered a technology excluded region in the midst of Silicon Valley.
During the formation of the EPADV collaborative, Hewlett Packard became the group's partner and donated $5 million in the form of a cash award, equipment and technical support. So, the effort to leapfrog started.
The members of the EPADV collaborative sensed that the city had a few advantages, since East Palo Alto was a new city, having been incorporated in 1983, contained "a rich array of cultures and language groups," was in the midst of redevelopment and had actively engaged citizens.
During the dinner celebration, presentations were made by Ortensia Lopez, the executive director of El Concilio of San Mateo County(ECSMC); Solomon Hill, the director of the Ravenswood City School District Technology Department and Anita Cuellar, the manager of the W1F1 Project, which is designed to both provide broadband access to the East Palo Alto and Belle Haven communities and to increase computer ownership within the two communities.
Juanita Croft, an instructor at Foothill College who leads a local line dancing group, spoke about the W1F1 101's relationship to disability awareness and access.
Awards and recognition were given to Yvonne Hunt, Hewlett-Packard’s former Vice President for Global Philanthropy who is now the chief financial officer at Legacy Venture; Stuart Jeffrey, who was instrumental with the installation of the city's Community Wireless Network, H. Camilla Nelson, who is a program Manager at Hewlett Packard,Court Skinner, the founder of Computers for Everyone and Nadine Watson, the Community Interact! Project Coordinator. Janiece Evans-Page, who is a vice president and general manager at HP was given special recognition as the mother of the EPADV project.
Some would agree that it has been a long, uphill journey for East Palo Alto as the city has worked to close the digital divide that separates it from other cities on the digital highway. But McNair-Knox said it best,"EPADV is still kicking," she said. "We know we have a long way to go to be competitive.