Community Partner Spotlight: Boston's Tech Goes Home Bridges the Digital Literacy Gap
It seems like every day a new digital tool is introduced that will "disrupt" the basics of how we live. From employment interviews and seminars conducted online to mobile apps for real-time medical consultations, it feels like technology is always steps ahead of us. Yet for some people, technological advancements can be challenging rather than empowering, especially when access to digital tools is limited.
To help bridge the gap, nonprofit organization Tech Goes Home (TGH) helps Boston-area underserved residents gain access to the skills and tools needed for 21st-century success through free digital skills training programs. Serving vulnerable populations, including low-income families and those from challenged neighborhoods, the organization has supported more than 20,000 people across more than 200 sites in Boston since 2010. Since launching in 2000, TGH has expanded throughout Boston and is now being replicated in cities across the country.
"Affordability is a big piece of the digital gap," says Theodora Hanna, co-director of Tech Goes Home. "Technological advances and resources are spreading faster and faster; what you can do using technology is limitless. But there's such a wealth disparity in many major metropolitan areas that the folks who can't afford internet access and skills training are getting left behind."
It's difficult to conduct what many people consider everyday tasks—applying for a job or school online, writing emails or using Google maps—without these basic skills. A recent study reported that the average family saves almost $8,000 a year by having at-home online access—for instance, a person can register for snap benefits online in the evening rather than needing to take off a day of work to apply in-person.
Tech Goes Home offers 15 hours of free Internet skills training through its courses citywide in public schools, community centers, libraries and the like—a program supported in part with funding from Capital One. Tech Goes Home trainers tailor their courses to the audience, which ranges in age, skill level and language. "Our goal is helping people learn to use the Internet and then take that in whatever direction they need to take it," Hanna says. That could range from job placement to immigration and citizen services to searching for low-cost housing. Most participants present a final project on something they've learned, such as creating a Facebook page for their business. At the end of the program, participants can purchase a new computer for $50 and sign up for a low-cost Internet option.
"My favorite part was gaining knowledge about the resources I can use as a parent, such as Code.org, Khan Academy, Common Sense Media, the activities on Boston Navigator and more," one participant adds. "My son has already benefited from these and I look forward to him doing so [much] more in the future."
In 2017, TGH plans to introduce more courses in Boston neighborhoods with high demand. With funding from Capital One, TGH has launched the Ready, Set, BankSM program, an adult learning resource that shows seniors how to bank digitally, become more financially literate and take ownership of their personal finances. Tech Goes Home also partners with Capital One Café Ambassadors, who serve as volunteers to help in TGH classes or serve as guest lecturers on areas of expertise like monthly budgeting or credit monitoring.
"Our missions are so well aligned," Hanna says of the partnership with Capital One. "In a rapidly evolving world where what you can do online, and increasingly what you have to do online, is changing so quickly, people are getting left behind. Tech Goes Home and Capital One want to make sure we're helping people not just move at the same pace as technology but also leapfrog into staying ahead of the trends. We're focused on helping our clients achieve equal footing on an ever-changing playing field and really to embrace the bigger picture of opportunity."
For more information on Capital One's community efforts, visit capitaloneinvestingforgood.com
Photo credit: Courtesy of Tech Goes Home