By Broderick Johnson
Submitted by Comcast Corporation
At the height of the pandemic, Comcast began its Lift Zone program so that more students, who were unable to participate in remote education at home, could access free WiFi inside neighborhood community centers.
In the Twin Cities area, we partnered with The Sanneh Foundation, an organization that for more than 20 years has empowered youth through educational after-school and summer programming, to install free WiFi at its Conway Center in 2020. It was Comcast’s first Lift Zone in the country.
Later, in 2021, after The Sanneh Foundation suffered a devastating fire that forced it to shut down, our teams worked quickly to install free WiFi at a second location so that the families and students could continue to stay connected. This new location, The Sanneh Foundation’s Seton Center, also marked the 1,000th Lift Zone milestone for our program.
Partnerships with community-based organizations are at the heart of our work to advance digital equity and to help create a world of unlimited possibilities through our $1 billion initiative, Project UP. Even though nearly all schools have now returned to in-person classes, there remains a need for community learning spaces with free WiFi where people can learn digital skills or even get one-on-one technical support or instruction.
That’s why we’re going even further to help by funding an AmeriCorps Community Technology Empowerment Program (CTEP) member at The Sanneh Foundation. This trusted, local resource – called a digital navigator – will expand the scope of digital literacy skills classes offered to youth, help seniors connect with loved ones, and assist community residents with job searches and application submissions.
Thanks to this support from Comcast, students will be able to increase their computer skills that lead to higher paying jobs and careers in technology, and the digital navigator will be available to senior community members who are looking for basic instruction on how to set up computers, create email accounts or even connect with their grandchildren.
Founder and CEO, The Sanneh Foundation
In addition, we are supporting the St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN), the local Twin Cities organization that manages AmeriCorps’ CTEP, by providing funding for operations and member support. This builds on our nationwide effort to create and scale a network of digital navigators who are trained to help people learn how to get online, use devices, and acquire digital skills.
Digital navigators are critical to closing the digital divide and reducing socioeconomic inequalities. A Comcast-supported study by the Boston Consulting Group found that with the support of these digital case workers, Internet usage climbed significantly, access to basic needs like healthcare increased, and 1 in 3 users found a new job or earned a higher income.
The need for connectivity has never been greater. By working with partners like The Sanneh Foundation and SPNN to expand broadband adoption, we can help close the homework gap, advance economic mobility, and achieve digital equity.
Regional Senior Vice President, Comcast Twin Cities Region
We know from years of experience that no single company, nonprofit, or government program is ever going to close the digital divide alone. At Comcast we therefore partner with thousands of local community-based organizations like The Sanneh Foundation and SPNN. We share a mutual and deep commitment to coalition building because working together, we know we can make sustainable and meaningful change.
Broderick Johnson is Executive Vice President, Public Policy & Executive Vice President, Digital Equity.
Lift Zones and digital navigator programs, as well as partnerships with organizations such as The Sanneh Foundation and SPNN are part of Project UP.
Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is a global media and technology company with two primary businesses, Comcast Cable and NBCUniversal. Comcast Cable is one of the nation's largest video, high-speed Internet and phone providers to residential customers under the XFINITY brand and also provides these services to businesses. NBCUniversal operates news, entertainment and sports cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, television production operations, television station groups, Universal Pictures and Universal Parks and Resorts.
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