Transforming lives through digital literacy.

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Nonprofits and libraries across the country organized special events held the week of May 8 as part of Digital Inclusion Week. San Francisco had over 50 events, including a tech expo, technology classes, special events, and film screenings.

The week began with “Call to Action: Digital Equity in San Francisco Now,” an event held at the San Francisco Public Library. The event featured two panel discussions about getting online and acquiring the tech skills needed to survive and thrive. It brought together local Internet service providers (ISPs) and nonprofit leaders who shared information about what they’re doing to provide access and training in underserved communities.

City Librarian Luis Herrera kicked off the event, followed by District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell, who shared his vision for a connected San Francisco. Mariko Davidson from Microsoft was the MC and shared information about the company’s civic innovation programs.

Panel One: Laying Down the Digital Roads

Former Supervisor Eric Mar moderated the opening discussion and encouraged dialog from the panel. Local representatives from ISPs were on hand to discuss the efforts their companies have made to address the digital divide in underserved communities. Some highlights:

  • Scott Adams, from Comcast, talked about Internet Essentials, their low-cost internet solution and their partnerships with local nonprofits to provide digital literacy training.
  • Rudy Rucker, co-founder of Monkeybrains, discussed how his company is wiring up low-income housing with Gigabit Ethernet.
  • Charles Barr, founder of Webpass, spoke of the thousand training sessions his company has donated to nonprofits all over California.
  • Cammy Blackstone of AT&T discussed her company’s Access program, which provides installation and service at reduced rates for those who qualify.

It was encouraging to hear these organizations addressing what is sometimes seen as a lack of need with dedicated programs to pave the digital roads that get the underserved online and connected.

Panel Two: Learning to Drive

The second panel heard from nonprofit organizations that have been working (in some cases for decades) on raising digital literacy in underserved populations. Four panelists, facilitated by CTN’s Kami Griffiths, discussed how they’ve been striving to achieve a vision of full digital inclusion for job seekers, seniors, and low-income families.

  • Kristen Hickey Pederson from The Arc shared her organization’s support for lifelong learning where digital literacy is an growing part of everyday life.
  • Winnie Yu from Self Help for the Elderly spoke about pairing seniors with SF Connected’s staff training and curriculum, making health care and finances more accessible.
  • Josh Peters from Bay Area Video Coalition talked about the TechSF program and their work to help people obtain media training and acquire employment.
  • Tania Estrada from the Women’s Building, a woman-based community resource, discussed how to train and connect immigrants with the growing number of digital resources available here in San Francisco.

While there may still be challenges ahead, CTN is delighted to see this week of digital inclusion bringing together a growing network of trusted community organizations that work together to bridge the digital divide.

The event was recorded, and each part can be viewed here:

San Francisco’s First Digital Inclusion Week

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Kami Griffiths