By: South Pittsburgh Reporter | October 13, 2022 | Read the full article
Grant and equipment will launch three-pillar digital inclusion initiative
In celebration of National Digital Inclusion Week, Comcast has awarded a $90,000 grant and 50 laptops to Neighborhood Allies, a non-profit dedicated to making Pittsburgh neighborhoods equitable. The organization will use the grant and laptops to launch a digital inclusion initiative focused on broadband adoption, access to devices and educational skills-building tailored to the needs of individuals and small businesses.
This announcement is part of Project UP, Comcast’s 10-year, $1 billion commitment to advance digital equity through programs and community partnerships that connect people to the Internet, advance economic mobility, and open doors for the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, storytellers and creators.
Neighborhood Allies plans to partner with the University of Pittsburgh Community Engagement Center Hill District, CCAC Homewood-Brushton and YMCA Homewood-Brushton to create Digital Navigators, individuals affiliated with trusted community organizations who are trained to help people access the Internet, use devices, and acquire digital skills. Once their training is complete, these Digital Navigators will educate Hilltop, Hill District, Homewood, Larimer, Millvale and Wilkinsburg residents and businesses in a wide range of digital skills and career coaching.
Additionally, they will help residents learn about the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides eligible low-income households with a credit up to $30 per month toward their Internet and/or mobile service. Eligible Comcast customers can get home Internet through Comcast’s Internet Essentials or Internet Essentials Plus at no cost once the federal credit is applied. Internet Essentials customers can also add a line of unlimited 5G cellular data ($45) through Xfinity Mobile for as little as $24.95/month after the ACP benefit is applied.
“In Pittsburgh, digital inclusion is more important than ever,” said Presley Gillespie, president and CEO of Neighborhood Allies. “Pittsburgh’s technology workforce increased by 7.5% and remote work options over 400% nationwide during the pandemic. Access to skills training, computers and Internet can help thousands of Allegheny County residents, workers and entrepreneurs pursue career opportunities that didn’t previously exist.”
Neighborhood Allies also plans to host workshops focused on connectivity and digital skills training that will feature certifications such as Google Analytics and CompTIAA+ security training. In addition to neighborhood-based locations, training will also take place at CoLab18 in Nova Place on Pittsburgh’s North Side, one of Comcast’s 37 Allegheny County-based WiFi-connected Lift Zones – which provide free, high-speed WiFi to community members.
This grant follows the announcement of a nationwide study by the Boston Consulting Group, which found that Digital Navigators are critical to closing the digital divide and reducing socioeconomic inequalities by helping more people get online.
The study surveyed 1,500 individuals across the country who received support from a Digital Navigator. With the support of these digital case workers:
• More than 65 percent of survey respondents said they obtained Internet access on a computer or tablet at home; among Hispanic and Black Americans, this increased to 72 percent.
• More than 85 percent of all respondents said they used the Internet more frequently.
• Almost half surveyed obtained better healthcare, and 40 percent received support with basic needs like food, rent, and housing.
• 1 in 3 found a new job or earned a higher income.