Sean Fox presenting in gray shirt and khakis to a room of 8 individuals sitting at tables
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Recap of August Lawrenceville Happenings: Digital Equity

On Thursday, August 10th, the Lawrenceville Happenings Meeting was hosted at Goodwill (118 52nd St) from 6:30-8 PM by Lawrenceville United, Lawrenceville Corporation and Goodwill. This meeting was hosted in-person with 8 attendees and online via Facebook Live to roughly 10 attendees throughout the meeting. The focus on this Happenings was on digital equity — specifically the Digital Equity Plan being proposed and soon deployed in Allegheny County and Pennsylvania.

The Federal Government recently enacted a bill that will deploy $45 billion across the nation to make the Internet more accessible and affordable for all. Pennsylvania is set to received $1 billion from this bill and is currently working on a five-year plan to see how these funds will be best allocated across the state.

After some introductions to each of the organizations, Sean Fox, the Tech Academy Coordinator at Goodwill Career Services, educated the attendees on what this plan entails, how residents and community members can give their input, and how the organizations’ services can assist them when it comes to digital equity and access.

The presentation was interactive in how the material was presented. In person attendees were first invited to share on sticky notes who their Internet Service Provider was, how much they pay monthly for their Internet, and the speed of their Internet plan in megabits per second. The result of this exercise was that there was no single answer when it came to cost and speed of internet. Fox disclosed the various kinds of Internet services and what these services are best for, depending on a household’s Internet usage, including DSL, cable, and fiber-optic. These options are also location-dependent, meaning those in older homes may not be able to have cable internet, as the structure of the buildings means they don’t have access.

Fox then went over device access, talking about how computers, tablets, smartphones, and desktops all have different capabilities and can be costly. Attendees were invited to share what devices they had access to and used most regularly. The answers varied for all. Since devices can be costly, Fox reviewed opportunities that are more affordable, including Computer Reach’s Pittsburgh-wide weekly lottery for anyone to win a free desktop computer complete with a keyboard and mouse. Additionally, the Affordable Connectivity Program facilitated by the FCC allows for Internet access in the home for as low as $10 a month, with discounts on devices. Lawrenceville United can assist any resident looking to apply for this program with the application and qualification process. Plus, the federal Lifeline program allows for a discounted mobile phone monthly bill.

The final portion of the presentation reviewed digital skills. Fox went over how the Goodwill SWPA provides classes that teach individuals digital skills, including the Microsoft Word Suite, and the Internet. These skills help with the facets of digital equity, including community connection, job applications, and healthcare access. For the final attendee activity, sticky notes were used again to share what digital skills attendees wished to learn more about and become more proficient with. Among these answers, the top responses were Microsoft Excel and social media platforms.

The meeting closed with the completion of Pennsylvania’s Statewide Broadband Connectivity and Digital Access survey, which all are invited to complete at the below link through September 2023. Completion of this survey will help in creating meaningful and effective programs with the money granted to the state, as well as Allegheny County. Please complete the 10-15 minutes survey, and reach out to Lawrenceville United, Lawrenceville Corporation, or Goodwill of Southwestern PA with any questions.

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