Dramatic Digital Divide Success Stories

JUNE 21, 2014

Tags: Digital Inclusion

lisa2in 2014, over 2,100 people in under served inner city neighborhoods were involved in our free digital life skills classes. Learn how technology skills and inexpensive computers are changing lives.

Through the first five months of 2014, a total of 459 separate individuals have been students in our free classes, with many attending multiple sessions. Attendance in at least one three-hour class session is required to purchase a $75.00 refurbished computer from us. Besides providing free Wi-Fi to families in low income housing facilities, we also offer an affordable $10 a month 4G wireless data plan.  (see Internet Access for Low Income Families)

So, who are we reaching through our basic Internet and computer skills program?

25% have never used a computer
75% are over 50 years old
80% are minorities, predominantly African American
75% have incomes of under $20,000 a year
90% purchased a computer from us after their taking the class
2/3 of the participants in the free classes are women
Half of women over 60 have a child under 18 years old living with them

Here are a few of the stories of lives that have been touched in significant ways through these efforts.

Annette, 68 year old senior living in low income housing, once felt very alone. All of her family members had moved to Texas and California. Because of her limited budget, after completing the classes it took her 3 months to pay for a computer on our “lay away” plan . In the meantime, we taught her how to use Facebook and it’s chat feature. Before, she had very limited contact with her children and grandchildren and just a few pictures at holidays.

Using Facebook Annette now sets times to chat with her daughter and grandchildren. She is also able to see their photos in sports, school functions and family activities. She also does chat sessions with her son every week. This is so important for her because all she can afford is a cell phone with limited minutes.

Because she is now “digital,” she no longer feels unwanted, abandoned or old and unnecessary. Instead, by staying in touch with her family, she now feels loved, wanted, needed and has more fun. Getting a computer, learning how to use it and being a part of the world and connected changed Annette’s life dramatically.

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An even more dramatic change happened in the life of Sarah. She was a 23 year old single mother who was living on public assistance with two children when we first met her. Knowing she wasn’t providing for her children, she, too, experienced struggles with self-esteem and hopelessness. With minimal education, no marketable job skills or computer knowledge she was going nowhere fast. Over a period spanning several months, this young lady attended our basic classes and learned how to use a computer for the first time.

Because of her limited income, it took Sarah four months to pay for her $50 refurbished computer. She did it by taking on odd jobs to earn the money. During this time, we provided her with one-on-one assistance to learn how to apply for jobs and to develop a top notch resume. She also asked for our help with interviewing skills and choosing appropriate attire.

The good news is that she did get an office job and then a promotion within six months of being hired. Besides moving from public assistance to a career, Sarah also completed her GED and is taking college courses on line. All of this happened within the span of just nine months!

In another instance, we worked with Liza, an unemployed 38 year old woman who could neither read nor write. She how to use a computer and the Internet for the first time in our free classes. Outside of the sessions, we introduced her to educational word games. Using them, she taught herself how to read, write and spell. Because we made it fun for her, she came in every day for several months.

Once she started learning, Liza’s thirst for education was fueled, she couldn’t get enough. She felt she just had to have a computer that she could use at home. Like the other two women, because of her limited income, the only way she could purchase a refurbished PC was to take on odd jobs, like scrubbing floors. Before long, Liza was able to get a part time job and her self-esteem and confidence have blossomed.

These are just three of the many lives that are being changed as our organization works to provide affordable access to technology and practical skills to people in Kansas City’s under served inner city neighborhoods. We can only do this because of the volunteer efforts and financial contributions of those who share our vision. We especially need your help during these summer months.

Written by Tom Esselman

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