Telecommunications giant AT&T contributed $500,000 to PCs for People to support the nonprofit’s digital navigators and tech interns programs in Baltimore.
It’s estimated that 96,000 households, or 40% of the city’s residents, were living without wireline internet connectivity as of 2018. Since the pandemic made digital connectivity a necessity and not an option, Baltimoreans have seen nonprofits, government and private businesses joining together to bridge the digital divide.
But the digital divide is not just about access — it’s also about a lack of familiarity. All 96,000 households could be connected to the internet tomorrow, but that connectivity’s impact would be blunted without information on how to use their devices. And using digital resources to create opportunities to get out of poverty aligns with PCs for People’s mission.
“Some people have gone generations without really engaging with technology, and that hinders their ability to get good jobs or to even know where good jobs can be found,” PCs for People Maryland Executive Director Gary Bonner told Technical.ly.
This is where the digital navigator program comes in. It trains community members to teach fellow residents how to use critical online services that help them obtain food, rent, education, employment, childcare and government benefits. That could mean teaching others how to use Adobe Suite or Pro Tools. It’s about arming people with the skills to “think and create in the technology.” (To get involved in the digital navigator program, call or contact PCs for People here.)
The tech interns program is a paid internship with PCs for People through Baltimore schools such as Paul Laurence Dunbar High School or local job training programs such as Byte Back. It’s a seven-week program through which participants get their National Association of Information Destruction, or NAID, certification while learning the ins and out of how the nonprofit functions.
The $500,000 investment from AT&T, as a part of the $2 billion the company pledged over the next three years to address the digital divide, makes it the biggest financial supporter of PCs for People yet. These investments make possible the positions of the 70 Baltimore youth who have completed the tech internship program and the 40 deployed digital navigators currently in the community.
In the fall, PC’s for People plans to start recruiting for its cable network and cable installations (CNCI) service, which will train and employ 350 Baltimore residents living on 200% below the poverty line, all over the next two years. These hires will receive their CompTIA A+ and CNCI certifications while on the job, for which wages start at $18 per hour.
“There is no greater barrier to economic mobility than the inability to compete in a digital world. Our friends at AT&T understand this barrier and are investing time, energy, and resources in ensuring all of our citizens can engage the digital world in constructive ways,” Bonner said in a statement.Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.
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