After Nearly 20 Years, David Bohnett Foundation Stills Sees Tech Divide

These days it’s hard to imagine anyone not having access to the Internet. It’s practically everywhere from cell phones to coffee shops and has increasingly become the go-to for finding jobs, conducting research and connecting with friends and family. But what if you’re a low-income LGBT youth without a support system? Or an LGBT senior who has never used a computer? How exactly are you supposed to gain access to the Internet and the vital resources it provides? Well, after nearly 20 years, the David Bohnett Foundation still has the answer: CyberCenters.

First launched in 1998 at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, the Foundation’s CyberCenter program was the vision of David Bohnett, himself a tech entrepreneur, who wanted to ensure that the LGBT-community remained connected to leading-edge technology. So he personally donated computers and printers to the LA LGBT community center. Two years later, the foundation formalized the program and began installing CyberCenters in the LGBT centers in New York and Orange County. The rest is history.

(See IP's recent profile of David Bohnett.)

Since then, the foundation has invested more than $3 million to make Internet technology available to people in more than 60 LGBT community centers, universities, and recreational facilities across the country. These centers are each equipped with 5-10 computer stations and loaded with a broad range of programs that help users create resumes and apply for jobs, explore their creativity, or simply connect with family and friends. The centers also provide training for those who are not tech-savvy or for those who need help looking for jobs. And that’s the piece that has made the program popular among both tech-activists and those serving other demographics impacted by the same economic or social challenges.

Which is why the foundation is sticking with this work. The foundation is donating upwards of $500,000 to support the upgrade in technology for 29 of its CyberCenters to ensure that the LGBT community doesn’t lag behind. Over the past year, it's upgraded the technology in eight of its centers.  

The David Bohnett CyberCenters span the country, but some sites of note include the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy, Duke University, University of Pennsylvania, S.A.G.E., Colorado Springs Pride Center, and the Lesbian/Gay Community Service Center of Greater Cleveland in Ohio.