But thanks to the partnership members' efforts and an $18.2 million federal stimulus grant, computer access is about to become easier.
Mayor Nutter, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and others cut the ribbon yesterday on the lab, the first of 77 free computer centers that will open around the city.
Philadelphia FIGHT, which stands for Field Initiating Group for HIV Trials, provides services to individuals with HIV/AIDS and those who are at high risk for the disease. The center now has 10 new computers in addition to the six older ones that previously provided computer access in its library.
"This is a proud, proud moment," Nutter said. "This is the future of the city."
Both Nutter and Brady also cited the computer centers as an example of how the federal stimulus bill can impact individuals. "It makes me want to vote for [the stimulus] all over again," Brady said.
The labs will be run by the city and nonprofit and education groups, and will offer digital-literacy training. The Philadelphia FIGHT center offerings range, for example, from "basic computing 101" to training about social media and blogging, said education director Juliet Fink.
Computer labs will open in homeless shelters, recreation centers and drug-recovery houses. "The real idea is that you build the computer centers where people already go for assistance," Fink said. The city hopes to have all the centers open by the end of summer, Fink said.
"Only 76 more to go," Nutter said.