PHILADELPHIA—To address the increasing need for residents to work and study remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Digital Literacy Alliance (DLA) today awarded grants to three organizations to support the creation of one or more Digital Navigator positions.

Digital Navigators will help residents access and use technology and the Internet. Individuals in these roles will be available by phone to help residents access affordable internet and technology options, ranging from where to get remote digital literacy training to helping them apply for internet access to identifying low-cost or free computers to use.

“This pandemic has made clear the importance of digital and internet access to our residents and our communities,” said Deputy Chief Information Officer for Innovation Andrew Buss. “The Digital Literacy Alliance joins other local foundations in responding to the COVID-19 crisis and seeks to directly address Philadelphia’s digital access and equity challenges. We look forward to seeing how our three grantees can develop and adapt this work to best help communities in need.”

The organizations that have been awarded grants are the Community Learning Center (CLC), the ExCITe Center at Drexel University, and SEAMAAC. Each of these organizations have been awarded a total of $30,000, with the money split into two categories: $25,000 is dedicated to supporting the Digital Navigator service and $5,000 will help the grantees offer increased access to computers for those who need them.

The Digital Navigator role is currently being developed with guidance from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) and looks to remotely help individuals get connected. The selected organizations will work closely to coordinate a Digital Navigator network in Philadelphia and work with the NDIA to receive training as well as support. This position will be an evolving role—each of the grantees will help advance and expand its work.

Below is a brief overview of the 2020 Digital Literacy Alliance awardees:

Community Learning Center (CLC) 
The CLC is a nonprofit organization that helps economically-disadvantaged adults in Philadelphia develop their academic and employment skills. The foundation of their work is based in adult education and empowering individuals to recognize their full potential.

The ExCITe Center at Drexel University
The ExCITe Center at Drexel University fosters and features research that combines cutting-edge technological expertise with art and creativity. As the heart of innovation at Drexel, the Center emphasizes the importance of STEAM—Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics—and houses a number of exciting research projects.

SEAMAAC aims to support immigrants, refugees, and other marginalized communities as they seek to improve their lives. It is one of the oldest and largest agencies focused in this work in the Philadelphia region. From its educational programs to health and social services support to community development, SEAMAAC offers a number of opportunities for these groups to thrive.

Each of these organizations will dive into this work and prepare to take on fully establishing the Digital Navigator role. When the services are established, the Digital Literacy Alliance will announce how residents can get in touch if they are having challenges getting connected to and accessing the Internet.