The California Energy Commission and EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) jointly announced a new community service for California citizens and utility customers. The Jefferson Project, successfully launched as a year-long, 100-home pilot in the San Diego community of Clairemont, allows every citizen to enjoy the benefits of the Internet in their home, even if they are not computer owners.
The Jefferson Project is appropriately named for its goal of providing equal access to information and benefit to everyone in the community. The Jefferson Project merges easy-to-use in home Internet connectivity with a wealth of local content in a safe, familiar local website, where the users do not have to learn new technical skills or how to surf.
“This is the first step in a truly coordinated effort to ‘network the neighborhood.’ We link real people with their local friends and neighbors, parents with teachers, citizens with Clairemont merchants and civic organizations. The Jefferson Project website is being developed with the help of the citizens and leaders of Clairemont with the emphasis on local issues and resources – creating a ‘town square’ – a place to meet, gather and exchange information,” says Craig McAllister, General Manager of Community Networking Services at EPRIsolutions, Inc. and the Jefferson Project Manager.
The Jefferson Project was developed by EPRIsolutions, a services subsidiary of EPRI, in response to a common problem facing the utilities industry: How can this industry improve consumer awareness of energy conservation practices, efficiency and choice in the home and workspace? If consumers have a PC and find the right websites, they find useful and cost saving information. But this cuts out more than half of the community that doesn’t have a PC, plus more that won’t search for this information.
The California Energy Commission agreed to fund a demonstration program that would change citizens’ behavior regarding use of energy, home efficiency and conservation. Clairemont-San Diego was selected as the first location because of its size (35,000 homes), its average demographics, and its positive community spirit. The Jefferson Project can easily scale up to cover all of Clairemont as well as repeat the model elsewhere.
EPRIsolutions launched the Jefferson Project in May with the endorsements of the Clairemont Town Council, the Clairemont Chamber of Commerce, the Utilities Consumer Action Network (UCAN), the Clairemont Community Service Center, and other local groups. Families without computers were provided simple Internet access devices with dial-up modems for their TV sets, and fast connectivity to a local Internet service provider (supported in San Diego by eStoreManager). The easy-to-use Jefferson website, www.Clairemont.close2home.net , was crafted by EPRIsolutions to reflect user design input and is loaded with local content. PC users can see a version of the website and portal simply by registering on-line to join the others in the Project. As the number of participants in a networked community increases, the benefits of being connected increases exponentially – more users sharing more community content.
“From the first day, kids were e-mailing their friends and parents were contacting teachers and neighbors,” McAllister said. A big advantage of this system is that a family does not have to own a computer in order to communicate with their friends. Users do not have to be PC or web-literate. They simply navigate from the comfort of their living room, using a TV remote control and/or a wireless keyboard, both of which are included in the system. The user-friendly format also makes the Jefferson Project an easy way to access the limitless information available on the Internet beyond the local Clairemont content, especially for those who have little or no experience with computers.
“In selecting where to begin our pilot project, we thought a local elementary school would truly benefit by being involved,” stated Jefferson Project technical manager and local school parent, Victor O’Rear. “Students, parents, teachers, PTA, and administrators all have the need for more efficient ways to communicate with each other, and the weekly folder that our kids bring home is not very reliable,” he adds.
“Our family loves it, especially my eight year old,” says Mrs. Shar Pulver. “Unlike AOL where he can click all day and end up in various places, he seems to find just what he wants by using the Jefferson Project links. I like it because it’s easy to use and the content is relevant and safe. I know my family won’t end up at some inappropriate website because our community helps decide what content we want to reside on our Clairemont network.”
Jean Brown, principal of Holmes Elementary School in Clairemont, and her teaching staff were quick to recognize the benefits of participation in the Jefferson Project, so this is where the Jefferson project started. TV modems and Internet services are free to the 100 start-up participants at Holmes Elementary for one full school year. The users can view classroom information that is posted on the private Holmes Elementary School site within the Jefferson Project portal. Holmes parents and students can check the school activities calendar, view class projects and homework assignments, and even get the assistance of online homework helpers. Everyone has email and can surf the Internet too.
Jefferson Project participants have also agreed to participate in a baseline survey plus several online surveys over the course of the year, addressing issues of energy conservation, their Internet use, and the benefits of the Jefferson Project to them. “We’re finding just what we expected – people who live in the same neighborhood or who belong to the same organizations, like the Holmes Elementary School community, are interested in similar issues and want to communicate about them. We’re providing an inexpensive, easy-to-use method for connecting everyone and a site to meet and exchange information,” says Jack Hanzlik, Jefferson Project Director of Marketing Communications.
The Jefferson Project staff plans to expand this initial project to 15,000 non-PC families in Clairemont over the course of the next year. Funding sponsors are welcome to join the Project.
For more information:
4951 Clairemont Mesa Drive
San Diego CA 92117
EPRI, established in 1973 and headquartered in Palo Alto, California, manages science and technology projects for the energy and energy services industry worldwide. EPRIsolutions is a wholly owned subsidiary of EPRI that provides custom delivery services to EPRI, its customers, and the energy industry. To learn more about EPRI see their website at http://www.epri.com/ or contact Mr. Craig McAllister. 3412 Hillview Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94304 Phone: 800.313.3774
To learn more information about the California Energy Commission see their website at http://www.energy.ca.gov/ or contact Mr. Percy Della 1516 9th Street, MS 29 Sacramento, CA 95814-5512 Phone: (916) 654-5027 Fax: (916) 654-4420