Digital Inclusion Impact: Year 1 Recap

It’s been one year since Louisville Metro launched our digital inclusion plan, and to celebrate our one year anniversary, we put together some of our accomplishments over the past year.

Our first year working to eliminate the digital divide in Louisville focused on finding out what works, building key relationships, and laying the foundation for long-term digital equity in our community.

A quick reminder of our three focus areas for the work and our accomplishments:

Connectivity: Increasing home internet access

  • 419 Low-Cost Internet Sign Ups

Hardware: Getting more computers into homes

  • 353 computers refurbished

Digital Skills: Comprehensive skills training for modern world

  • 42 people trained in Digital Skills

With a limited budget and no full-time dedicated staff, we needed to be creative on how to make a tangible impact on the digital divide in our community. Having no baseline to judge what a good goal would be, we set big goals that seemed achievable, and came close to meeting them. But, most importantly we made real progress and developed key relationships that have deepened the impact of our work and will pay dividends in the long term.

And, while these were the metrics we judged our work against, we had some other successes to share with you (including millions of dollars in fiber infrastructure investment!).

Strategic Accomplishments

Louisville Fiber Infrastructure Technology

After assessing the availability of middle mile fiber internet infrastructure in our community, one area stood out: west Louisville. The digital divide reflects the social divide in our community. So, Louisville Metro Government fully funded to overbuild middle mile fiber in West Louisville and other parts of the city. This network will allow us to partner with private companies to provide high-quality access to both residential and businesses located in west Louisville.

AmeriCorp Vistas

One thing became clear early in our work: the need exceeds our small team’s availability and community organizations are eager to engage us on this work. To start to fix this gap, we applied for and successfully earned 5 AmeriCorp Vista grants that started this April. These Vistas will start work in July 2018 and will build on the foundational relationships and programming we have already built. Louisville Metro Government will host two Vistas and they will be responsible for engaging the community as a whole; Louisville Metro Housing Authority, the primary sponsor of (and the reason we got the) Vistas, will host two as well and they will focus on their residents; and, finally, the Office of Equity inside the Mayor’s office will host the fifth Vista and they will help develop policies to improve digital equity in our community.

Digital Inclusion Fund

As I mentioned before, there is a limited operational budget for digital inclusion work right now. Everything you see accomplished below was done with donated resources and grant funding. But, there is only so far that those resources can take us. With that in mind, we created the Digital Inclusion Fund at the Community Foundation of Louisville. Contributions to this fund will help us do things like purchase laptop accessories such as power supplies and computer mice, buy power strips for HUD housing we are installing computers in, and printing off low-cost internet informational flyers for JCPS’ Stem Bus to hand out at the schools they visit.

If you would like to support this work, please consider making a donation. Anything you will be able to contribute will make an impact in our community.

To donate, follow the link below and select “Digital Inclusion Fund” on the drop down menu.

Digital Inclusion Fund at Community Foundation of Louisville

Connectivity

Low Cost Internet Sign Ups

Louisville Metro and LMHA have been working to get eligible Louisville residents signed up for locally available low-cost internet plans. To get in front of as many people as possible, we conducted sign-ups at events held by partners, such as Neighborhood Places and JCPS. We also incorporated low-cost sign-ups into the flow of work for employees that work with the eligible populations. Since July 2017, we have signed up 419 households for low-cost internet service.

See below for the impact area of this work:

Job Seeker Program

This program gave a Chromebook and unlimited data hotspots from LFPL to 15 participants in the Self-Sufficiency program at the Office of Resilience & Community Services. The program proved to be a valuable resource to participants. Over 95% of monthly survey responses showed the devices were being used on a weekly basis, with 64% and 71% using the Chromebooks and Hot Spots, respectively, on a daily basis. The devices allowed the participants many of whom are single parents to maximize their time by allowing them to work wherever and whenever they got an opportunity.

Year 1 Metrics

Read more about the Job Seeker Program

Hardware

Fern Creek Computer Refurbishment Program

In Summer 2017, we received our first batch of donated computers from two local banks (Republic Bank and Mainsource Bank). These computers were refurbished by students in the Computer Science Academy program at Fern Creek High School. After the first batch of computers were ready, we partnered with several corporations to get more computers in the pipeline and hosted our first Community Donation Day in January. In total, we collected and refurbished over 350 computers in the past year. The computers, once refurbished, go to in-need students at Fern Creek High School, LMHA residents and the community at-large. We are always looking for more partners, so please reach out if you have a corporate partner that could help us get more computer to those that need them.

Fern Creek High School Computer Refurbishment

Digital Skills

PNC Gigabit Experience Center

Photo Credit: Youth for Technology

We started the PNC Gigabit Experience Center project at Louisville Central Community Center (1300 W. Muhammad Ali) with the idea that technology is a new, but now integral part of empowering communities. The goal of the center was to bring high-tech events to the Russell Neighborhood to bring the people and ideas that are transforming the world around us. Since it officially launched in May 2017, we have accomplished that mission, and are excited about the new opportunities the PNC Gigabit Experience Center will bring as it heads into its second year.

Some highlights from the first year:

  • 3D printing for girls (Twice!)
  • 2 Day Camp sponsored by Best Buy Geek Squad to teach girls about 3-D printing and other emerging trends in technology
  • Cyber Security Summit
  • Day long cyber-security summit hosted by the Technology Association of Louisville Kentucky
  • Adobe Design Hackathon
  • A hackathon focused on design for Design Week in Louisville
  • Brown-Forman Hackathon
  • B-F hosted their first internal hackathon at the GEC
  • Civic Data Alliance Hackathon
  • CDA brought together people from all over Louisville to create technology projects
  • Start Up Weekend
  • Three day intensive start up boot camp for local entrepreneurs. Louisville Metro sponsored a Beecher Terrace resident’s entry fees.

Grow with Google Digital Skills Training

Digital Skills Training at Parkway Place in Park Hill

In the last month, we have started digital skills training in partnership with Google Fiber and the Louisville Metro Housing Authority (LMHA). As part of the Mayor’s Give A Day campaign, we trained 24 people in basic digital skills at LMHA’s new opened computer lab at Parkway Place in Park Hill neighborhood. And, as part of National Digital Inclusion Week, we trained 20 residents of Avenue Plaza. For these trainings we use Grow with Google’s Applied Digital Skills platform, which provides free, comprehensive training in basic digital skills needed for our modern world on Google Chromebooks provided by Google Fiber for the event. As we bring more resources into the program, we will expand this program to meet the strong demand from residents.

Again, please consider supporting this work with a tax-deductible donation to our Digital Inclusion Fund at the Community Foundation of Louisville.

To donate, follow the link below and select “Digital Inclusion Fund” on the drop down menu.

Digital Inclusion Fund at Community Foundation of Louisville

If you have any questions, please reach out to me at ed.blayney@louisvilleky.gov.

Ed Blayney

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