Temple University highlighted its commitment to addressing the digital divide by launching a Digital Equity Center.
Funded in part by Dell Technologies, the new center will help provide North Philadelphia residents with access to technology, help desk support and provide education in digital navigation and digital literacy through Temple’s strategic community partners.
“There is still a lot of work that needs to be done but we are committed to doing our part to help bridge the digital divide in North Philadelphia,” Gregory Mandel, Temple University’s provost, said during a Digital Equity Day event held Wednesday as part of Philly Tech Week.
“Through this new center we will be able to ensure that children can keep up with their school work, we will be able to help their parents receive free continuing education and perhaps most importantly we will be able to bring families together for cultural programs, workshops, for concerts on their computers and tablets and phones. ”
“This is what it means when we talk about being intentional with respect to community engagement,” Mandel continued. “This is also how Temple strives to serve our community and strives to make a real difference.”
Located at 1915 N. 11th St., the center’s efforts are focused on people residing in eight ZIP codes that border Temple University in North Philadelphia.
This comes as there are about 96,000 households in Philadelphia that do not have broadband Internet access and African American, Hispanic and low-income residents are less likely to have access to a working device according to the city’s Digital Equity Plan.
Temple representatives and business partners spoke on how they are working to increase digital access during the unveiling event.
Jonathan Latko, executive director of business administration for information technology services at Temple said they are working with its community partners to distribute 600 computers. He noted that Temple representatives worked with its partners to hand out about 100 computers at the beginning of the pandemic.
“We worked really hard and were very intentional to figure out who our partners should be to build those trusted networks,” Latko said. “We didn’t want to go out and introduce ourselves to the community. They already had relationships in the community, so we leveraged those relationships to get equipment through those partners to the people. ”
Temple is collaborating with strategic partners on the project including City of Philadelphia (The Mayor’s Fund, Digital Literacy Alliance (DLA), PHLConnectED, PhillyDonateTech), Dell Technologies, Comcast Corp., Philly Community Wireless, Per Scholas and Technology Learning Collaborative.
“This partnership that we have with Temple and Comcast and the ecosystem of nonprofit partners that you see here today is extremely exciting for Dell because as you can see it’s really enabling the community to seize the opportunities that exist in the digital economy,” said Maia. Wagner, digital inclusion strategy lead at Dell Technologies.
Dennis Mathew, senior vice president of Comcast’s Freedom Region, discussed the importance of partners coming together. Comcast is supporting Temple’s effort through its Lift Zones that offer WiFi access and Internet Essentials, a comprehensive low-income broadband adoption program.
“We have to work together and we need trusted voices on the ground that will bring this message of connectivity and help us drive awareness and drive adoption,” Mathew said.
Patience Lehrman, vice dean of workforce and community development from Temple’s College of Education and Human Development, addressed the college’s role in the effort. The college is currently providing digital literacy training to parents and caregivers of students from the Potter-Thomas Elementary School and James G. Blaine Elementary School.
“We are responsible for ensuring that families who have school aged children really gain the skills and adopt the technology that they need to support their children’s education,” she explained.