sees potential in using the portal as a model for helping other communities.

Building Sustainability

With limited staff and resources, the Futures Foundation relies on help from industry and local volunteers. Dell and Microsoft stepped in with assistance on technology issues, while additional knowledge and labor were gleaned from the community.

San Diego County's current IT contract, which included funding for the Futures Foundation, is still active. When that contract expires, however, the foundation may be challenged with how to sustain the program. Should that happen, Stawiski said, they will seek grants or charge a fee for service to keep the foundation afloat.

"We already provide some Web hosting for nonprofits, e-mail services, Internet content filtering, [and we] install computers, set up LANs, etc., so we'd have to begin charging for those services, and we'd also look to the community for additional funding," she said.

But it's more likely the county Board of Supervisors will seek to include the Futures Foundation in future IT contracts.

"The Board of Supervisors is thrilled with this program because we're taking these assets and making them very valuable, and putting them to good reuse in the community," said Stawiski. "We're directly supporting their e-government goals by making sure a lot of their constituents have access."

San Diego's approach was innovative, Bruett said. "To have them thinking from the start about how they would dispose of PCs, how they were going to get them into the local community after they were done using them, was very insightful."

As the Futures Foundation moves into its fifth year, Stawiski said it wants to increase efficiency and effectiveness so more people in the community benefit.

"There are all kinds of opportunities for people when they have the technology tools to help them," she said. "In the beginning, we talked about how many computers and organizations we were serving. Now we've realized it's not about the output, it's about the outcomes -- letting people realize their own potential and using technology as a tool to help them do the things they want to do."

Justine Brown  |  Contributing Writer