Digital Literacy Unlocks Opportunity for All

Jul 2, 2018 9:35 AM ET
Article

For many of us, making connections or finding information online is second nature. But for others, navigating the internet is a small triumph that can lead to life-changing independence. It’s the spark that can ignite a new passion and open doors to future career paths.

The keys that unlock these life-changing moments? Digital literacy and access to technology — two areas of strategic investment at Comcast NBCUniversal that empower people and create opportunities for those who need it most.

Learning Online, 24/7

Through our partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), Comcast NBCUniversal has helped create new possibilities for youth for more than 15 years.

In 2014, we launched My.Future, an innovative technology platform that is being rolled out at Boys & Girls Clubs nationwide.  Accessible to more than 4 million youth, the interactive digital platform enables kids to interact with programs ranging from digital literacy essentials to visual arts and game design and teaches them about the limitless possibilities technology can unleash in today’s digital world.

Last year, in Clubs across the nation, BGCA and Comcast NBCUniversal introduced the next generation of My.Future.  The initiative has evolved into a dynamic, user-led experience that members can use both inside and outside Club walls.  Kids can learn how to stay safe online and prevent cyberbullying, how to code in less than an hour, and how to create their own animated video or website, among many activities.  Today, more than 70,000 kids have accessed the platform in nearly 700 Clubs across the country, as well as from home.

“That’s the most beautiful thing,” says Dakota Crow, Chief Executive of the Boys & Girls Club of the Muskegon Lakeshore in Michigan.  “The kids can take it home and continue learning wherever they are.  My.Future stays open, even after the Club doors close.”

The upgraded My.Future platform also includes remote access to an enhanced online learning environment and a virtual computer science lab with both facilitated and self-led experiences to help kids develop important digital skills.

Crow says he has seen firsthand the confidence kids gain with greater access to technology.  “They’re acquiring a skill set that gives them the same opportunities across the board, across any divide,” he says.  “Technology is the great equalizer.”

Serving Up Digital Skills with the Philadelphia OIC

As service-focused industries grow in the greater Philadelphia region, it’s as important as ever for job seekers in the industry to be equipped with the proper digital skills to be competitive.

To help ensure low-income individuals have an equal opportunity to learn the skills they need to get good jobs and advance in their hospitality careers, we partnered with nonprofit Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) to support digital literacy modules in workforce development programs, among other efforts.

Our partnership is rooted in a shared goal of paving the way for economic mobility. Together, we support programs such as coding boot camps, digital media and entrepreneurship programs, and unique mentoring programs that expose students to technology and professionals while learning important STEM skills.

Founded in 1964 by civil rights leader Rev. Leon Sullivan, OIC has partnered with Comcast on community initiatives for more than a decade, including providing free basic digital literacy training and spreading the word about Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program for low-income Americans.

Philadelphia OIC’s Digital Literacy Program provides an open public computer lab and on-site coaches to train low-income job seekers for resume writing, online job searches, common workplace software basics, and more. “These classes give the 400 youth and adult learners enrolled in the various programs the digital literacy required to break into the workforce,” says Aisha Dennis, Vice President of Operations at Philadelphia OIC.

“This allows them to not only gain the skills necessary to get in the door, but also sets them up to create value-added expertise in jobs like front desk operations, room attendant services, culinary arts, and other areas of hospitality,” she adds.

With more than 70% of the digital literacy students in their prime working years, we plan to continue bridging the opportunity gap in Philadelphia through our ongoing partnership with OIC.

The Freedom to Do It Yourself

In 2014, we began a partnership with national nonprofit The Arc to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) learn to use technology to gain independence in fun and inspiring ways.

Part of our work together included launching six Tech Coaching Centers around the country to provide access to technology and one-on-one instruction for people with I/DD.  Our $3.7 million national grant was used in part to purchase all-in-one computers and ancillary equipment.

Participants come to the center to create a budget, build a presentation, draft an essay, apply for jobs, and connect to friends through social networks.

“Our consumers are gaining opportunities they didn’t have before,” says John Garrett, Staff Development Assistant for The Arc Southern Maryland.  “They don’t have to rely on someone else to do things most of us take for granted, like looking for work.  They can sit down, search for jobs online, and fill out applications at their own pace.  It’s freeing.”

Casey, a Southern Maryland participant, used her newfound skills to write a book and is now working on her second.

“Comcast NBCUniversal is really setting the bar for people with I/DD,” says Mary Atkins, Staff Development Manager for The Arc Southern Maryland.  “People feel confident about the skills they learn here, which gives them the confidence to use their knowledge and skills elsewhere in the community.”

We expect 16 chapters of The Arc to have Tech Coaching Centers up and running by 2019, with more on the way in the years to come.  Our work together is a natural extension of Comcast NBCUniversal’s commitment to improving digital literacy skills for people of all backgrounds and abilities.

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