The California Department of Aging recently awarded millions of dollars to counties across the state to help bridge the digital divide for older adults (60+) and adults with disabilities (18+). Community Tech Network has paired with San Mateo and Sonoma counties to help them efficiently implement their funding.
The goal of this statewide initiative is to reduce learners’ isolation, increase their social connections, and enhance their self-confidence and self-sufficiency in navigating digital and online resources. In order to meet this target, we’re taking a nuanced approach that includes numerous components of digital inclusion.
We first partnered with agencies throughout the counties that serve older adults and adults with disabilities so that these agencies can refer potential clients to us. This collaboration with nonprofits and government entities is crucial because it allows our work to be sustainable. These groups will continue to support digital equity in the community even after the grant period ends.
We then purchased tablets, which we will provide free of charge to all learners. We will also make arrangements to ensure that the learners have access to reliable internet and help eligible low-income households sign up for discounted internet service through the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program.
However, a device and internet access alone are not enough. People must also learn how to use these tools. To accomplish this, we are providing free digital skills training to all participants so that they use their devices and the internet both independently and safely. We offer basic and intermediate curriculums in eight different languages. Learners can take the training remotely and from their homes through our Home Connect program. This allows us to reach even more individuals, including homebound and rural folks.
We are also offering our partner agencies in the county access to CTN’s DigitalLIFT training. Their staff and volunteers can participate in our DigitalLIFT online courses, where we share the knowledge we have gained over the past 15 years. This can prepare their organizations to integrate digital equity into their own daily service delivery and provide ongoing digital inclusion support to their communities.
As we continue to move forward with this project, we’ll be sharing more updates about the programs’ successes. Stay tuned for more!
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