Several years ago I was asked to participate in a focus group convened by the United Way for the purpose of planning a community information system. The focus group was pretty diverse — City, County, State government; public and private foundations; healthcare and other social service agencies – but united in the belief that the Alamo area community needed a web portal for data/statistics/indicators about the greater San Antonio area.
Since those first few meetings, committees and subcommittees have been formed, disbanded, reformed and renamed. Funding has been found, used up and replenished. Participant involvement has waxed and waned, usually depending on personal and agency priorities. Some players have dropped out and new players have been added. But the basic concept of a portal by the community, for the community and about the community prevails.
AACIS is not intended to provide a list of the new movie openings or the latest restaurant openings or the current political scandals, but rather to allow researchers and residents to find data indicating social trends and needs and resources in the Alamo area. The Information and Referral component is particularly complete and includes social services available to help with everything from “abuse” to “youth employment”. The portal serves as both a data repository and a gateway with links to other data sources.
Early on in the project, participants realized that some members of our community were unaware of resources available to them over the worldwide web and how to access these resources. AACIS efforts to democratize the data include establishing CTCs (Community Technology Centers) to provide training in basic computer skills in neighborhoods. CTC students who complete at least three computer classes and achieve at least 90% on class scores can receive a one-year membership to Alamo PC Organization, thereby continuing their education with other technology fans! A State of Texas TIF (Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund) grant has enabled the start up of this project by funding the establishment of a computer literacy center in an existing adult literacy center. Additional funds are being sought to establish more centers.
The TIF grant also purchased a high-speed community network hub, which will expedite interagency communication within the Alamo area. AACIS agencies can connect through the hub to each other and to outside agencies through the internet.
Another grant is being used to develop and acquire educational content that will be provided through the community network hub to AACIS agencies. SALLON (San Antonio Lifelong Learning Online Network), funded by a U.S. Department of Commerce grant, consists of multiple projects. The George Gervin Center seeks to provide basic skills for an office worker, sales person, building trades worker and aviation mechanic. Providence High School wants to establish a curriculum for unwed mothers who have not completed high school. The U.T. Health Science Center plans to provide training to clinicians at Community Health Centers, and Vue-ture Arts wants to provide an online archive of the Prospect Hill community.
AACIS is a constantly evolving entity. The Web site has gone through several major design transformations. Check out the AACIS site and let the Webmaster know what other indicators and resources you can share with your community or that you would like to see added.