In partnership with Comcast, Tallahassee community leaders today announced the creation of a new program to help bridge the digital divide, promote digital equity and inclusion, and drive digital adoption in Tallahassee’s southside neighborhoods, where many residents are not subscribed to home internet services.
The Rotary Club of Tallahassee Southside, the Greater Apalachee Ridges Estates Neighborhood Association, Leon County Schools and Comcast hosted the Inaugural Community Digital Equity Forum today at Fairview Middle School for about 200 residents, students and community advocates.
Comcast announced it will award a $75,000 grant to the Rotary Club and the Neighborhood Association, who will work with the school district and other community organizations to launch a Digital Navigators program in Leon County.
Digital Navigators are specially trained advocates who help their neighbors get online, develop digital skills and connect them to available resources.
A study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) revealed that Digital Navigators are critical to driving digital adoption in unconnected communities and reducing socioeconomic inequalities by helping more people directly access the Internet.
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.
“The positive impact Digital Navigators have is astounding. Their success proves that to close the digital divide we need to connect with people in person to grow their comfort and confidence with technology and going online,” said Bret Perkins, Comcast Senior Vice President of External & Government Affairs. “By funding the creation of a Digital Navigators program with our dedicated community partners, we are one step closer to closing the digital divide in Tallahassee and making sure that everyone here has the access and skills needed to take advantage of the Internet’s vast resources.”
According to the National Skills Coalition, 92% of jobs require digital skills yet nearly one-third of U.S. workers do not have foundational digital skills — disproportionally impacting low-income communities and people of color.
The Rotary Club, Neighborhood Association, Leon County Schools and additional supporting partners will launch #TallahasseeConnects, a nine-month campaign to train and dispatch Digital Navigators to help Southside residents sign up for free or low-cost in-home internet services, including the federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and Comcast’s Internet Essentials program.
Digital Navigators will also encourage residents to undergo digital skills training at the Apalachee Ridge Estates Technology & Learning Center, which has been a Comcast Lift Zone since May 2021. Lift Zones are WiFi connected spaces at the facilities of Comcast community partners where residents and students can get online.
“We are thrilled about expanding our partnership with Comcast today,” said Christic Henry, President of the Greater Apalachee Ridge Estates Neighborhood Association. “Not only did we launch our Tallahassee Connected campaign, but the Inaugural Digital Equity Forum allowed community stakeholders and residents to gather and speak openly about the challenges of not being connected and how we can work together to resolve digital inequities.”