Jean Otazo just joined Community Tech Network a few months ago, but within that short time, he has already made a huge difference in the lives of many Spanish-speaking older adults in San Francisco by helping them get connected to the internet.
One of Jean’s biggest accomplishments: helping various people sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a government initiative that offers low-income households discounts on their home internet bills.
In the last month alone, Jean worked diligently at our partner location, the On Lok 30th Street Senior Center, to help three older adults get approved to receive ACP benefits.
“Sometimes, I spend up to three or four hours with a person helping them submit their application. We have to make sure that they have all the necessary documents, and if one document is 25 pages, we have to scan it page by page. If the person doesn’t already know how to use a computer we have to set up their email address first and do other things like that,” Jean says.
Once someone is accepted into the ACP, Jean’s efforts don’t stop there. He also helps folks find a suitable internet provider and facilitates the connection between the ACP and the provider. He even usually goes the extra mile to ensure that the first monthly payment is made. However, convincing people to sign up for the program is often quite difficult.
“Most people don’t know about the ACP program,” says Jean. “I have to explain to them what it is. But a lot of them are still scared to apply and are worried about sharing their information like their Social Security number.”
This is not uncommon. According to the Benton Institute, “less than a third of eligible households currently participate in the program — mainly because the people who could benefit most from the subsidy are unaware that it exists.”
Thus, it was important for Jean to build a sense of trust with the community. One important factor is language. Jean is bilingual (English-Spanish) and is originally from Venezuela. Being able to speak with the older adults in their own language helped them to feel more comfortable. Additionally, Jean was not a stranger to the older adults at 30th Street. As part of his work with CTN, he has also been visiting the center each week to offer tech support.
“They know me there. I help them with things like applying for affordable housing online and renewing their driver’s licenses. I also teach them how to use their devices and Google products and change their settings and avoid scammers.”
Jean will continue supporting older, Spanish-speaking adults at 30th Street and other partner locations in the upcoming months.