In our increasingly digital world, it is more important than ever for DC residents to be able to use computers and mobile devices to access services. The Internet has become essential for shopping, job-hunting and pursuing continuing educational opportunities.
Despite recent gains, many people in lower income neighborhoods still lag behind in technology adoption. A recent Pew Research Center study shows that U.S. residents with incomes under $30,000 trail high income citizens in desktop or laptop computer ownership by more than 40 percentage points.
To help close this technology gap, the D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer created Connect.DC – an initiative seeking to bridge this digital divide by making technology easier to use, more accessible, more affordable, and more relevant to the everyday lives of District residents.
Here in Brightwood, Connect.DC is partnering with Byte Back and the Emory Beacon of Light CDC to host digital literacy classes for neighborhood residents. The goal is to offer computer training and career support for low-income city residents. The current PC for Beginners class is Connect.DC’s first program in the Brightwood community.
Mobile Tech Lab
If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.
-Sir Francis Bacon, 1625
To overcome the challenge of the lack of locations with up-to-date technology equipment in many low-income neighborhoods, Connect.DC created the Mobile Tech Lab (MTL), a converted bookmobile equipped with computers and Wi-Fi. The MTL is able to travel to all areas of the city to deliver services, like helping residents sign up for accounts and accessing government services.In its current configuration, the MTB provides nine laptop stations, a large screen monitor for lessons and a teaching and control station.
Computer Training for Beginners
On the day of my visit, I spoke to the instructor, Mr. Manley Collins, an AmeriCorps associate. He said that teaching the MTL classes has been very fulfilling. Although the students at their Brightwood visits tend to be a bit older, the program is open to all DC residents. The focus of the curriculum is to provide computer literacy to DC residents and teach them basic skills like turning the computers on and using simple software like email and word processing programs.
The computer training program can last for four or six weeks and classes are held two days a week. At the end of the course, students receive a certificate.
Closing the Gap
Connect.DC, Byte Back and Emory Beacon of Light have certainly taken and innovative approach to bringing digital services to our underserved population. If you’re interested in learning more about the Brightwood classes or enrolling for yourself, contact the Emory Beacon of Light offices at 202-829-5732. The current PC for Beginners class runs through mid-September.