Residents at six Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) facilities in Central will soon have internet connectivity available in their homes for the first time thanks to a partnership with DigitalC called “Connect the Unconnected.” The goal of the program is to address, and lessen, the digital divide. The digital divide is the gap between those who have access to digital technologies, and those who don’t.
A recent report from National Digital Inclusion Alliance ranked Cleveland as the third worst city in the country for households with broadband access. According to DigitalC, in Cleveland, more than a one-third of the city’s residents do not have access to the internet in any form, and as many as half the city’s residents have no fixed wired home internet access.
“The latest ACS survey shows that 50 percent of Cleveland residents don’t have broadband access at home,” said Liz Forester, director of programs and partnerships, DigitalC, in an interview with Ideastream. “The gap keeps growing and our fear is that it will get so wide that people won’t be able to catch up.”
The first phase of the “Connect the Unconnected” program will install broadband access in six CMHA housing facilities: Cedar Extension, Bohn Tower, Wilson Tower, King Kennedy North, King Kennedy South and Outhwaite. The Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry Men’s Shelter and Stepstone Academy, both located in Central, will also receive broadband internet access through the program.
“Digital inclusion is very significant. The internet has become a necessity for all and programs like this help people move toward self-sufficiency and allow them to have access to some of the more basic things in life,” said Jeffery Patterson, CEO, Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority. “It’s beginning to look like the internet is essentially as important as a refrigerator or a stove.”
The first step in the program was to bring high speed wireless connection to the buildings and to each apartment.
DigitalC is starting at CMHA’s Cedar High Rise and is currently in the very early stages of construction with equipment going up in February. Once the broadband is in place, the training begins with the ReStart Program, teaching residents basic to intermediate skills in software and hardware. Residents will have an opportunity to attend a basic digital literacy training class and then will receive a refurbished computer upon completion of training.
“The access by itself is not enough, you need a computer and then you need to know how to use that computer, how to get online safely, how to access your medical records, do your online banking. So that is the training we are going to provide,” Forester said.
Before embarking on the project, CMHA and DigitalC held community forums and focus groups on how internet access can address the highest priorities of residents including being able to apply for a job online, checking their medical records, keeping in touch with family, and feeling secure in their apartments.
“Residents are thrilled about being able to have this in their homes. A lot of folks may have it on their smart phones, but to be able to utilize it in your home, to be able to surf the web and do so many different things is just exciting,” Patterson said.
Read more about “Connect the Unconnected” here.