PHILADELPHIA—The Digital Literacy Alliance (DLA) today announced that three organizations dedicated to providing learning resources to their communities are now available to answer calls from Philadelphians who need help accessing technology and the internet.
After conducting an emergency grant cycle in April of this year, the DLA selected three grantees—the Community Learning Center (CLC), the ExCITe Center at Drexel University, and SEAMAAC—to establish helplines staffed with Digital Navigators ready to take calls. Digital Navigators will help residents access affordable internet and support technology needs. The grant cycle intended to address the need for residents to work and study remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Each of these groups understood the immediate technology challenges presented by COVID-19 and the importance of working toward digital equity in Philadelphia,” said Andrew Buss, Deputy Chief Information Officer for Innovation at the City’s Office of Innovation & Technology. “The DLA is eager to test the digital navigation model in Philadelphia and adapt it to support our residents as they work and learn online.
Digital Navigators will be available by phone and email to help residents access and use technology and the internet. They will provide support by helping individuals find and apply for affordable internet connectivity, obtain low-cost or free computers, get support with simple online tasks, and link to online digital literacy training.
Information on how to reach each organization is listed below. While each of these organizations will be helping its local community, individuals living in any part of Philadelphia can call the helplines or email these groups for support.
Community Learning Center (CLC)
The CLC’s Digital Navigator program is designed to assist the North Philadelphia community. Residents can reach a CLC Digital Navigator by calling 215-426-7049 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The helpline will be live-answered from Monday through Friday at 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. If individuals call outside of these hours, they are encouraged to leave a message for a callback that they will receive in 1 to 2 business days. Residents can find more information about the CLC’s program here.
“Over 800,000 of our city’s most vulnerable residents lack the basic language and digital literacy skills necessary to navigate public and social systems. The pandemic has exacerbated this digital divide in Philadelphia,” said Kimmel Proctor, Community Learning Center Executive Director. “While many have the privilege to work and learn from home, countless others are without any means of accessing vital information or resources required for families to thrive under normal circumstances, let alone during a global health crisis. Community Learning Center is proud to participate in this critical and concentrated effort to expand equitable digital access into marginalized neighborhoods citywide.”
The ExCITe Center at Drexel University
The ExCITe Center’s Digital Navigator program aims to assist the West Philadelphia community. West Philadelphians can call or text 1-267-217-3508. The helpline will be live-answered from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. If residents call outside of these hours, they are encouraged to leave a message for a callback that they will receive in 1 to 2 business days. A Drexel Digital Navigator can also be contacted by email at email@example.com. Learn more about the ExCITe center’s program here.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the great digital inequities within Philadelphia that have always been there,” said Andrew Stutzman, Project Director for Civic Technology. “The Digital Navigator program will help us provide a resource to the community that strengthens the digital literacy instruction and computer distribution programs that Drexel University has already had in place.”
SEAMAAC will looks to assist the South Philadelphia community. Individuals can call the helpline at 215-867-9732. The helpline will be live-answered on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. If residents call outside of these hours, they are encouraged to leave a message for a callback that they will receive in 1 to 2 business days. Philadelphians can also email firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with a Digital Navigator. Live chat translation is available in Spanish and interpreters are available for most languages on helpline calls. When leaving a message, callers must include a request to be called back in their preferred language. Additional information about SEAMAAC’s Digital Navigator program is located here.
“Digital literacy and digital access are social justice issues: at this time in our history, it is critical for us to address these issues of inequities,” said Thoai Nguyen, Chief Executive Officer at SEAMAAC. “Technology should not be a privilege, but a right. We’re excited to partner with the City of Philadelphia, The ExCITe Center at Drexel, and the Community Learning Center, as we work together on the goal of digital inclusion. SEAMAAC is proud to be a part of this innovative project that is supporting our city’s most marginalized communities.”
The DLA and the Office of Innovation & Technology look forward to the increased focus on solving Philadelphia’s digital divide challenges. The creation of the Digital Navigator roles is the first step of many that the City hopes will increase digital equity.