Last night was PBDD’s first fundraiser, Laughing Matters, and it was a success on all fronts. Thank you to those who helped organize it and to everyone who came out to support us and the People’s Resource Center. Following is the content of my talk describing PBDD.
I started volunteering with the People’s Resource Center about seven years ago, teaching computer classes to use my skills and knowledge to give back to the community. The more I worked with the PRC, the more I was impressed by the program that they had developed under the guidance of Frank Goetz- refurbishing computers, providing computer training, and giving the computers to clients who had taken the training. And the more I looked at it, the more I learned about the need nationwide for providing equipment, training, and broadband connection to help connect the underserved to the modern digital world.
When I completed my employment in the telecommunication industry, I thought about how I could help build on the PRC model to introduce programs like theirs in communities which didn’t have such programs. Many non-profits are supported by coalition agencies which work with community organizations to help achieve their common goals. Examples include adult literacy, arts, and domestic violence prevention. But there wasn’t a national or international organization for digital literacy. With encouragement from PRC, Partners Bridging the Digital Divide was founded as such an organization to support digital inclusion efforts.
We are a small organization with large goals. In conjunction with my fellow board members, Maryanna Milton and Katherine Lato, we have gathered 18 partner organizations across North America. Our mission is to support and encourage nonprofit agencies to bridge the digital divide. Our goal is to improve existing programs and help start programs in unserved areas. Our vision is that everyone has access to digital technology and training.
Giving someone a computer often isn’t enough. Without training, the device may become a doorstop. Many organizations have recognized this and developed courses to help learn how to use computers. But the world doesn’t need fifty different courses on how to set up a Gmail account. It is better served by one or two courses that are kept up to date and used by agencies across the country. We have a database with dozens of classes that are kept up to date and which can be shared and reused and improved.
In many communities, including ours, there are children who don’t have a computer with adequate internet access to do their homework. There are immigrants who don’t have the computer skills they need to look for a job. There are people who can’t find information needed to survive in the 21st century.
Our partner agencies provide training, computers, and Internet connections to their clients. They can learn from each other. In Los Angeles, we have one partner who refurbishes phones and another partner that developed a catalog of resources for homeless teens. Working together, they gave phones with the app pre-installed to homeless teens. The teens can find shelter for the night, a warm meal and other help. Outcomes like this are why we exist, and why we appreciate your support.
PBDD helps our partner agencies share their expertise and hard-learned lessons, and use the resources developed by others. We work with other national organizations focused on improving Internet connections to help ensure everyone can participate in today’s digital society.