David Campos moderates a panel with speakers from the tech industry. Photo by Erica Hellerstein.

On an enviably sunny Saturday, a small crowd huddles around a table inside a popular Mission building.  Despite the nice weather, they’ve been inside for the better portion of the morning, examining an assortment of computers and other equipment.

“How much does that one cost?” a man in a Giant’s hat asks, pointing to a shiny laptop without a price tag. “$129,” the seller replies, enunciating the hundred as if to say, now this is cheap. The man’s eyes widen; he nudges a woman nearby. “That’s a good deal!”

The laptop was one of many reasonably priced computers for sale on Saturday at the Mission Economic Development Agency’s  (MEDA) “Get Connected Day.” The event, which was coordinated by MEDA in an effort to connect Mission residents with computers and Internet access, offered everything from computer literacy workshops to affordable laptops and $10 monthly Internet services. In addition to the $129 laptop, there were desktop devices with a large monitors going for $183, laptops with optical drives for $172, and $32 Skype kits.

MEDA’s “Get Connected” concept is simple: Extend affordable technology services and classes to help community members gain computer fluency, in a startup-dominated zip code that’s, well, notorious for its computer fluency.

MEDA noted the digital divide  in a 2012 proposal to the US Department of Education: “While San Francisco is a hub and innovator of the high tech industry, these resources and their benefits are not making their way into our low income Latino communities,” Even though the neighborhood is playing host to an increasing amount of tech workers and companies, there are still plenty of “offline” residents living just blocks away from the Google bus protests sites. According to MEDA, 73 percent of Mission Latinos have internet access, as compared to 88 percent of Mission residents overall.

“Our five-year target goal is to ensure that every child who lives in the Mission or goes to school in the Mission has access to a computer in their home and broadband Internet in the home,” said Richard Abisla, the technology manager at MEDA. “We do not want kids doing homework on smartphones. We want kids using their computer to do their homework with a stable Internet connection both in and out of school. We do not want kids excluded from using mainstream educational tools because they can’t afford them.”

The fact that there are disconnected Mission residents might seem incongruous with the high concentration of tech companies  in the neighborhood. Just last week, it was reported that Google leased a location on 298 Alabama Street and, as Mission Local mapped out earlier this year, the neighborhood is home to more than 50 tech companies. According to a report released by the brokerage firm CBRE, the tech sector held more than 60 percent of office space in the city last year.

But if the crowd at “Get Connected Day” was any indication, there are still Mission residents without strong computer literacy skills and Internet access.

Victor Corral, the Interim Director of the Mission Promise Neighborhood at MEDA, said that 75 to 80 percent of the Latinos they see are undocumented. ”There’s low literacy rates, low income, and internet cost is a huge portion of someones budget if you’re not living on much.”

Although they found that 70 percent of Mission residents had internet, Corral said they began to notice that many did not have computers. “We’d ask them ‘what’s your email address,’ and they’d tell us they didn’t have one.”

“I saw a lot of families today,” said Willie Lockhead, who manned a booth at the event offering cheap monthly Internet services from the nonprofit organization The Stride Center. “A lot of people out here don’t have Internet service. Sometimes we think ‘oh yeah, of course everyone has it.’ But of course they don’t. It’s not just for entertainment. It’s about access to information, creating resumes, life skills.”

A floor up from Lockhead, District 9 Supervisor David Campos moderated a panel discussion with speakers from Twitter, Square, the Kapor Center for Social Impact, and more.

Roberto Mejia, a support engineer at Jones IT, talked about carving a space out for himself in the industry when he had little formal training. “I used to do nonprofit work, housing work, I was like ‘tech that’s not cool! But in every job that I had, I always found myself solving other peoples’ desktop issues. I started taking classes, reaching out, took initiative. I always heard back. That’s how I got started.”

Campos  commended two of the speakers, Jennifer Arguello and Eva Binda, for their involvement in tech as young women of color.

“Most people thought I was born with a mouse in my hand,” said Jennifer Arguello, a Senior Tech Advisor at the Kapor Center for Social Impact. “I’m a nerd!” Arguello taught herself how to program when she was just six years old. But being a female Latina tech nerd, she added, is rare; Latinas make up just 1% of the tech population. “I got tired of the lack of diversity,” she said.

Eva Binda, who works at Square, added: “Sometimes when I go to meetings, the older men there don’t know what to think about me. I wonder if they’re thinking: ‘is she getting our coffee?’ But you have to just have confidence in yourself and what you have to say.”

A message that surely resonated with the crowd, which was largely Latina.

Maria Olivia, a longtime Mission resident, said she came to the event because she has a computer but doesn’t know how to comfortably navigate through the programs. Her daughter Stacey tagged along; Olivia said that she wants to expose her to tech so she can become comfortable with it, as a girl, at a young age.

As the speakers continued, a group of young men wearing black “Mission Techies” tee shirts paid rapt attention. They’re part of a MEDA 12-week training program, partially funded by the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development, that teaches Mission residents aged 18-24 tech support skills, IT essentials and operations, and office management with an IT emphasis.

In a room nearby, the audience was significantly younger. A gaggle of children squirmed through a “Digital Storytelling Workshop,” where girls in headbands and party dresses shared their own stories. They also watched a few animated/Claymation shorts to learn about virtual storytelling.

One video, “Cactus Story,” featured a bird gliding through the air. “Ew, he just pooped!” a little boy exclaimed when a tiny brown dot sailed toward the ground and landed with a plop. The class laughed and decided that they liked digital storytelling. A little girl turned to her friend. “I want to learn how to do that!” she exclaimed, watching the bird weave through the clouds and finish its course.

Join the Conversation


  1. Campos just has to commend the two “young women of color” rather than all speaker. He couldn’t just commend everyone who showed up but, rather, had to immediately make a comment that divides and separates a community trying to come together.

    Why does he allow his identity politics to invade everything and inhibit cohesion?

    1. Race-baiting 101. You are so transparent. Maybe you could use your skills (sic) more effectively in Kiev, supporting the Right Sector, or in Athens helping out Golden Dawn. Your divisive tactics, racism disguised as anti-racism, and false victimhood don’t sell in San Francisco.

      1. Campos was the one race-baiting here, by excluding the whites and the males from his commendation.

        When I call out such race-baiting, you defend such divisive categorizations.

        1. If you weren’t at the meeting, and I bet you weren’t because you continually express your displeasure with and opposition to participatory democracy, you don’t know much about what Campos did, to whom he spoke privately, etc., etc. I wasn’t there either, but I’ve heard him speak at public events, and he almost definitely publicly thanked everyone who attended. Special praise for people who are working hard to overcome personal obstacles offends you? Your “rising-tide, opportunity for all” schtick is just meaningless words.

          Race-baiting, elitist, authoritarian hypocrite.

          1. Wrong, landline. The article was very clear that Campos reserved a special commendation to just two people based on gender and race.

            That’s appallingly divisive for a politicians who is supposed to equally represent all segments of his constituency.

            Your defense of racism and sexism here is highly revealing of your prejudices.

          2. If Tim Perkins had commended just the white males who were present, you’d be all over him.

            So it is you who is the racist here, and I will continue to point that out every time you lapse.

          3. Why don’t you just write that “white males are better than everyone else” and be done with it? That’s the undercurrent of like 25% of your comments. That way, you could save people time and the website server space and give yourself more time to masturbate to your copy of “Mein Kampf.”

          4. Cheap attempt at deflection. You are supporting a Supe who made a point of omitting white males from the people to be thanked.

            That’s racism and you support it. you and Campos think that a white male is unworthy. And you probably are a white male so I guess that makes you a self-hating racist.

          5. I don’t support Campos. Never voted for him. I am pointing out your race-baiting. Period. The article covered a lot of ground. You chose to go negative and bring unsupportable charges of racism and sexism from a statement lacking in context.

            You comment on almost every article. You could have written about how positive this community effort is. You could have pledged some of your self-described wealth to assisting its goals. But haters don’t do that. They denigrate the efforts of others, including public officials, without adding anything productive. That’s what you do, and apparently that’s all that you do, judging by your voluminous comments here and elsewhere.

            I have almost no use for politicians. But I know that they almost always thank everyone for attending an event, because that’s what they do to maintain their popularity, and that is almost definitely what Campos did here and then gave special praise to what sound like extraordinary young women.

            If you think Campos is a sexist and racist, then tell him that to his face at his next public appearance. You wouldn’t dare. If I met you personally and you spouted off the hatred you write here, I’d call you out on it. That’s the difference between us. I’m a stand up guy and you are internet coward hiding behind his keyboard.

            Done with you.

            By the way, last I checked, Campos is a white male with a Spanish surname. Not white (or straight) enough for your club, Adolph?

          6. It’s possible that Campos remembered to also thank everyone. We don’t know that. We only know that he singled out female non-whites for no reason that was cited.

            Now, if I had been at the meeting, I’d have seen a group of people working together. I might have noticed that they were diverse but I certainly would not have seen everyone in terms of their race and gender.

            That’s the real point here. Campos cannot look at a group of people as people. He sees them as people on his side and the other side. He sees race, gender, sexual orientation and any other factor that he can carve into identity groups whom he can then contrast with each other. Because that is how leftists think – in terms of wars between classes of people based on stereotypes.

            I neither know nor care whether Campos is white. If that’s important to you, knock yourself out.

            If you are “done with me? does that mean you will finally stop stalking me and go back to your ignoring posts that you either do not like or do not understand?

  2. MEDA is perhaps the most worthless of the nonprofit lot. Their mission was to support Mission businesses over the past how many decades and after all of that work, those businesses are less able to defend themselves against displacement then before MEDA arrived on the scene.

    1. How do you know that there would not have been more businesses displaced if MEDA had not existed?

      And why should they be judged by displacement anyway, since businesses turn over and are replaced all the time?

  3. You guys talking bad about MEDA are idiots. MEDA’s Technology programs have helped me get access to broadband, access to a computer and a lot technology training. Because of that I have a better future for my son and myself. I am working now for the airport and due to the wonderful computer training I have received @ the Tech Center since 2011.

  4. marcos: up
    John: down
    marcos: down
    John: up
    John: marcos lies, he said up and down.

    Replace marcos with landline, nutrisystem, twobeers, Mission Local and almost any other commenter and you get the picture.

    I urge others to join me and support my effort to ignore this recent interloper whose nihilism, amorality and lack of discussion manners and principles have accelerated the descent of these once civil comment pages into a disgusting abyss.

    Remind me when I slip. We may disagree, but most of us love the Mission District and appreciate an online forum to discuss local issues. Either we take it back from trolls, or we’ll lose it forever. Unfortunately, from my limited experience reading internet comments, the trolls always win. What a shame.

    1. Shut your fucking babble up.You lame ass comment pholisopher. The bottom line is your ALL full of shit! The real world is a much different place then the world your living in. Mission Local? Funny name for a bunch of people who know nothing about the real Mission culture. All the trendy BS does not define a neighborhood thats rich with culture & history. Im glad its improving around here but what ya’ll call “New Mission” isnt new at all…its been changing for years before you got here & will continue to change years after you leave.

      1. Yes, in my experience, when someone calls you a “troll” it is really an admission that they know they have lost the debate, and so they turn to personal attacks and insults.

        Landline is the worst of these, which is why I slap him down a lot. but there are others. Fortunately the others post less obsessively.

        They are typical of the left. They wish to suppress and censor all differing opinions.

        1. “Fortunately the others post less obsessively”?

          How would you rate yourself?

          I would say, for a site you seem to disagree with so vehemently, you’re on here a lot.

          1. It’s not ML I disagree with at all. It’s a small minority of the posters here who are trying to change it into a propaganda site for socialism, that I disagree with.

            And if landline backed off from his relentless personal attacks, I’d post here far less. He should take his own advice and ignore me.

          2. marcos, provide evidence for your assertion that my view is a minority one.

            It certainly wasn’t when I support Ed Lee for mayor and you did not.

        2. “Fortunately the others post less obsessively.

          They are typical of the left. They wish to suppress and censor all differing opinions.”

          That’s some hilarious self-parody there, John. How someone who accounts for nearly half the comments here can call someone else obsessive is quite the display of arrogant hypocrisy.

          Soldier on, John!

          1. TB, present the statistical evidence that I post make half of all posts here

            Or admit that you would utter any lie to try and discourage any dissent to your grand socialist aim here.

          2. Damn, John, you’re on to me. The training I received at the Stalin Akademy for Maoist Agenda is no match for you.

            But, okay, I’ll play your game of nitpick:

            This thread total # of posts: 37

            This thread total # of John posts: 16

            16/37 x 100 = 43.34%

            “nearly half the comments.”

          3. 2Beers, so you cannot even get your claimed 50% figure even when you cherry pick the most favorable thread for your argument?

            Marcos, since I am a moderateliberal and a Democrat, anyone far to the left of me is a socialist. If you want the government running everything, and you do, that is textbook socialism.

          4. You’re lying and nitpicking, but you know that.

            I said “nearly half the comments.” So you’re just lying that I said “50%.”

            You’re an unabashed LIAR.

          5. You said that I said “50%.”

            I said “nearly half.”

            That makes you a LIAR.

            See, John, I can be an annoying nitpicker just like you.


          6. No, 2Beers, it makes you a nitpicker. You casually threw out a claim that I contributed (nearly) half the posts here and when I called you out on that lie, you started off with pedantry.

            It’s OK if someone exaggerates to make a point, but own it when you do, rather than digging yourself further.

            I do not care how much or little you post here. That’s your choice and not my concern

          7. marcos, “liar” is a word used like “troll” and “racist” to try and claim victory from a losing battle.

            You won’t see me use of those words much. I wish I could say the same for others.

          8. “Or admit that you would utter any lie to try and discourage any dissent to your grand socialist aim here.”

            You NITPICK and lie about what I said and you then accuse me of lying.

            I use your “techniques” and words against you, and now you say “You won’t see me use of those words much. I wish I could say the same for others”

            So, not only are you a NITPIcKER and a LIAR, you’re a HYPOCRITE, too.

          9. Empirical evidence of lack of connection to objective reality in posts is a firm basis for concluding that the poster is lying.

          10. I always know when I’ve won a debate when you two resort desperately to playing the liar card, the race card or the troll card.

            I accept your concession.

          11. John, you’re a pompous, hypocritical, self-parodying clown.

            if your intent was to turn the comments at ML to crap to divert people from discussing the negative effects of the gentrification you promote and exploit, well done!

          12. TwoBeers, once you stop debating the article comment and launch into personal attacks, you are effectively admitting that you cannot match my arguments and so resort to underhand tactics.

            My intent here is to provide a more balanced discussion than was happening. Why does that scare you so much?

    2. Thanks for the reminder landline.

      John is just a self-absorbed, race baiting troll. I have no respect for his views and will not entertain his vitriolic commentary.

      1. That’s odd, because I have the same opinion about you. But at least you have the sense to keep quiet when you are losing a debate.

    3. Landline, your obsession with me is becoming sick and stalkerish. Do I need to take out ka restraining order? Or can you learn how to resist every time you hear a post you don’t agree with.

      Your intolerance is scary.

    4. landline, I didn’t call marcos a liar. I simply asked him two questions that he could not answer.

      Lighten up. Defending racism won’t get you far in the New Mission.

    1. hypocrites! OMG! it’s liken those people who drive cars and complain about pollution, or the others who protest war yet pay their taxes to the very government that wages that war! or the people who complain about pesticides yet still eat food!! hypocrites omg!!

      1. The hypocrisy here is that the nonprofits and labor that are stoking this uprising are doing so as a chit for their own interests. They’ve failed to nurture the next generation of leadership even as they’ve dominated to exclusion the field and their bench is now thin to nonexistent.

        1. What else is a political animal to do? Unlike white male gentrifying tech workers like you, they have no other source of income.

          So they have to sing for their supper rather than, say, carp from the sidelines like you.

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