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Between lack of tools and literacy, how do we close the ‘digital divide’?

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Senior centers often host digital literacy classes, said Doug McGarry, executive director of the Dayton Area Agency on Aging.

Many of them have been suspended due to COVID-19, so people should check with individual centers to see if classes have resumed, he said. Dayton recently announced that some of its recreation centers will implement computer workstations for public use, McGarry said.

In 2021, AARP partnered with Older Adults Technology Services, a New York-based nonprofit social service organization, to help seniors learn personal technology, primarily through OATS’ flagship program “Senior Planet”, which offers online courses.

The Public Library Association’s free platform for teaching digital skills is www.DigitalLearn.org. It’s available in English or Spanish and can be used individually or in libraries, McCauley said.

Lack of access

Among younger populations, the problem is usually not digital literacy, but lack of access to adequate devices or internet service, McGarry said.

Even entry-level service jobs now require online applications, which can be daunting for someone who doesn’t speak English as their first language. This is where library staff can be of great help. Many libraries have programs tailored to all of these needs.

Home broadband service can cost $100 a month or more, according to InnovationOhio. About 20% of Dayton households lack broadband service, not even smartphones, the NDIA found based on census data.

The device someone uses may not meet their needs – for example, smartphones provide internet access but are not ideal for writing a CV or doing homework, said Maria McCauley, president of the Public Library Association.

According to a report by InnovationOhio, approximately 135,000 homes in the eight-county Miami Valley region lacked high-speed internet in 2020.

Montgomery County had the most, nearly 60,000 households; but the county with the largest percentage of its population without high-speed internet was Darke County at 31.8%.

Black and Hispanic or Latino Ohios are nearly twice as likely to lack access to home broadband as their white and Asian counterparts, InnovationOhio said, based on federal statistics.

subsidize the internet

Assistance is also available for Internet access at home and even for the purchase of computers. The Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 includes $14.5 billion to subsidize broadband internet service for families who meet basic income requirements through the Affordable Connectivity Plan.

The program offers a $30 monthly rebate to eligible households connecting to one of more than 1,300 participating providers. It can also offer a one-time $100 discount on a laptop, desktop, or tablet through a household’s service provider.

In some cases, this may result in Internet service at no cost to the consumer.

To qualify, households must have an income at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. It’s $27,180 for an individual or $46,060 for a family of three. Families may also be eligible if they participate in SNAP, Medicaid, housing assistance, SSI, WIC, reduced or free school meals, or if they received a Pell Grant.

Nearly 40% of U.S. households are eligible for the ACP rebate, including perhaps 1.4 million in Ohio, according to InnovationOhio.

In March, the state announced $232 million was available through BroadbandOhio grants to bring high-speed Internet to nearly 100,000 homes. It’s up to the companies to make the service available, but not to offer a discount to customers.

Among the first grant announcements is $2.1 million for Spectrum to provide fiber service to 1,165 homes in Clark County.

New broadband projects are planned in at least some of every county in the region except Miami and Montgomery; but Montgomery and the seven contiguous counties will still have areas without broadband access, according to BroadbandOhio.

Dayton Program

On Thursday, AT&T and local officials announced an initiative to “help bridge the digital divide” for Dayton residents, in conjunction with the Omega CDC Hope Center for Families.

This will include offering a free digital literacy workshop at the Hope Center for Families in Dayton, building on free digital literacy courses created in conjunction with the Public Library Association. The workshop aims to help families gain technology skills to access online education.

Omega CDC is a non-profit organization created by the Omega Baptist Church of Dayton to fight poverty. He is working to redevelop a 30-acre site in northwest Dayton with other agencies.

AT&T is also giving the Kettering Learning Center at the Hope Center for Families a $15,000 grant to support its work in workforce development, education, and technology access.

The announcement comes as AT&T – which participates in the ACP program – is expanding its fiber optic service in the Dayton area. Faster, higher-capacity Internet is available, or soon will be, for more than 75,000 local addresses, according to the company.


Where can I find courses in digital literacy and other computer skills?

Try your local library, senior center or community center. If you have access to a home computer, go to DaytonMetroLibrary.org and click “Programs” to see available locations, topics, and times, or call the Ask Me line at 937-463-2665. All programs are free but may require registration. Specific courses are intended for children, adolescents and adults.

For the free Northstar digital literacy program, ask your local library or go to https://ohioweblibrary.org/db/northstar.

The instruction is also available through AARP at www.SeniorPlanet.org.

The Public Library Association has a free platform for teaching digital skills at www.DigitalLearn.org. It is available in English or Spanish and can be used individually or through libraries.

What if I need home internet access or a computer?

To apply for the Affordable Connectivity Program, go to getinternet.gov or AffordableConnectivity.gov.

To find internet service providers in your area, go to Broadbandnow.com/Ohio or Broadbandmap.fcc.gov.

More information is available through AARP at aarp.org/ACP, by texting INTERNET to 22777 or by calling 833-511-0311.

Visit your local library if you need a computer or help accessing the websites above.

Dayton Daily News Champion Solutions

The Dayton Daily News recognizes that the way people get the news has changed, and that affects both how we deliver the news and how our subscribers read it.

To help our subscribers unlock all the tools that are part of the digital newspaper subscription, we’re hosting in-person community events that show how much more convenient than ever to stay connected. Subscribers will learn how to access the latest stories from our local journalists, as well as the importance of being comfortable with the media. Our staff will help readers access newspaper websites, digital ePaper and email newsletters.

The meetings will also allow staff to help readers navigate these digital channels, get questions answered, and empower readers to go beyond the print newspaper.

“Technology is constantly changing and at lightning speed. With so many channels and digital sources, it can be difficult for people to find reliable, quality information,” said Ashley Bethard, editor of the Dayton Daily News. “This makes our mission more important than ever – to put quality, trusted local journalism into the hands of our local community members in many ways, whether it’s a print newspaper, a digital ePaper, of our websites or newsletters.”

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