Comcast announced today it has awarded a $100,000 grant to Miami Dade College (MDC) as part of its Digital Adoption Initiative, aiming to bridge the digital divide and increase digital equity in South Florida communities.
The grant funding will be used to teach MDC students to become Digital Navigators, individuals affiliated with trusted community organizations who are trained to help people access the Internet, use devices, and build digital skills. Once their training is complete, the new MDC Digital Navigators will begin working in South Florida communities with a low digital adoption rate. Members of community-based organizations will also be trained to become digital instructors to provide digital literacy courses for their clients and communities.
It is estimated that Miami-Dade County has the third highest percentage of households without an internet subscription (20.5%), (Data from FIU Jorge M Perez Metropolitan Center, “South Florida’s Digital Divide.” Updated May 2020.) prompting the need to increase access for digital literacy in underserved and undeveloped areas.
“It is very exciting to see Miami-Dade County being recognized as a hub for technological development, innovation and creativity, but there are too many in our community who are still not able to take full advantage of digital resources,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. “We are grateful for the support of Comcast to help improve digital adoption and expand digital literacy skills across our community – and nowhere better to house this initiative than Miami Dade College, which is committed to driving digital equity.”
“Solving complex problems that plague our communities, like digital inequality and lack of Internet access, requires collaboration and ingenuity,” said Miami Dade College President Madeline Pumariega. “Miami Dade College is proud to be working with Comcast, one the largest technology companies in the world, on the new Digital Navigators program. This unique initiative gives our students the opportunity to not only learn about a real-world problem, but also immediately use their newly acquired knowledge and skills to help solve it in their communities.”
Set to launch this fall, the Digital Navigators program will provide participating students with the tools necessary to bridge the digital divide in unconnected neighborhoods and households, including instruction from high-trained digital instructors, free tuition, service-learning hours and a $250 stipend. The students will show residents how they can go online to discover and access critical resources and benefits, including food support, government assistance programs, employment opportunities and more.
The funding follows the announcement of a nationwide study by the Boston Consulting Group, which found that Digital Navigators are critical to closing the digital divide and reducing socioeconomic inequalities by helping more people get online.
The study surveyed 1,500 individuals across the country who received support from a Digital Navigator. With the support of these digital case workers:
- More than 65 percent of survey respondents said they obtained Internet access or a computer or tablet at home; among Hispanic and Black Americans, this increased to 72 percent.
- More than 85 percent of all respondents said they used the Internet more frequently.
- Almost half surveyed obtained better healthcare, and 40 percent received support with basic needs like food, rent, and housing.
- 1 in 3 found a new job or earned a higher income.
“Since we first launched our Internet Essentials program more than a decade ago, we knew that getting Internet access to unconnected households was just the beginning,” said Javier Garcia, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Comcast in Florida. “It is just as critical to make sure people understand how to best take advantage of all the Internet has to offer. Now with the Digital Navigators program, we are taking another important step to engage directly with those in need and continue to make progress in closing the digital divide.”
Digital Navigators is a part of Project UP, Comcast’s comprehensive, one-billion-dollar initiative to advance digital equity over the next ten years and reach millions of people with the skills, opportunities and resources they need to succeed in an increasingly digital world.