The Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center and LIFT-Philadelphia are bridging the digital divide — one class at a time.
The unique partnership between the two non-profit organizations allow for each to offer Internet connectivity and computer training classes in two distinct neighborhoods hard hit by the economy.
These digital literacy training sessions work in conjunction with Comcast’s “Internet Essentials” program, which is pushing for comprehensive, free to low-cost broadband adoption among low-income families.
Classes are held at the OIC Building, 1231 N. Broad St, 1st floor, and at LIFT-Philadelphia’s West Philadelphia location, 5584 Chestnut Street.
“When we started the Internet Essentials program, we promised to deliver a three-part initiative. One was to offer high speed Internet access. Second, we had an opportunity to purchase low-cost Internet-based computers,” said Bob Smith, vice president of Community Investment for Comcast’s Freedom Region. “The third part, which is really the most important, is training. We don’t want folks to get hooked up to the Internet and then not be able to take advantage of it.”
OIC will have a Gmail course on Tuesday, April 24, an Internet basics and safety session on Thursday, April 26, followed by a social networking class on Tuesday, May 1. All classes at OIC begin at 1 p.m.
LIFT-Philadelphia will also host a social networking class on Monday, April 23, followed by its own Gmail course on Monday, April 30. LIFT-Philadelphia will also have an Internet basics class on Thursday, May 3 and another social networking piece on Monday, May 7. Classes at LIFT-Philadelphia begin at 3:30 p.m. Call 1-855-765-6996 to sign up or for more information.
To be eligible, potential students need to reside in an area where Comcast offers Internet service, have at least one child enrolled in free or low-cost lunch program, never signed up for Comcast Internet service previously, and not have an outstanding bill with Comcast.
“In designing the program, we wanted to cover a range of topics — not just how to turn a computer on, but Internet basics,” said LIFT-Philadelphia Executive Director Josh Romalis. “We also started classes on social networking with Facebook, LinkedIn and other software. When people go to these classes, they gain an amazing amount of knowledge they need for their lives, like applying for benefits.
“For us and the community members, it’s been a huge win.”
Both Smith and Romalis said interest is spiking, and even though classes are filling up, the program is scalable and they believe they can serve everyone that signs up.
“We had a training session where a dozen people signed up that afternoon. On Tuesday, we had 17 sign up. It’s trending in the right direction, with more and more Philadelphians signing up,” said Smith. “We wouldn’t want there to be more than 30 [students] to a classroom; we’d rather classes stay at 15–20, but there is room for more.”
“Our cut off is 30,” Romalis confirmed. “But the beauty of this is we can add more classes. So if someone is busy on one day, they can attend another class at another location.
“This is open to everyone, and it has been incredibly effective.”