In a world that increasingly relies on technology, access to the internet and digital literacy are crucial for individuals of all ages. Unfortunately, many communities still face a significant digital divide, with limited access to high-speed broadband and the skills to navigate the digital landscape. Recognizing this issue, LinkNYC, in collaboration with Digital Girl and Boldyn Networks, initiated a series of digital literacy workshops at the Brooklyn Gigabit Center in Crown Heights, providing invaluable resources and education to the local community.

DigitalMe! Workshop Series: Empowering Seniors and Youth

This past summer, LinkNYC, known for building the world’s largest and fastest public Wi-Fi network, partnered with Digital Girl, a non-profit tech education organization, and Boldyn Networks to sponsor the “DigitalMe!” workshop series. These workshops aimed to close the digital divide by providing digital literacy education to seniors and youth in Crown Heights.

The “DigitalMe!” series, held between April and September, reached more than 80 participants and covered a broad spectrum of digital skills. Participants learned to use tablets and computers and received expert instruction on internet safety, social media, privacy, and the concept of digital footprints.

Empowering the Community with Digital Literacy

Michelle Gall, Executive Director of Digital Girl, highlighted the importance of providing free digital literacy education to the community, saying, “Digital Girl was thrilled to expand our partnership with LinkNYC at the Center with the DigitalMe! workshop series—providing our community members with free digital literacy education is key to making Brooklyn a more equitable borough where everyone has access to the 21st-century tools they need to thrive.”

The digital divide in New York City is a significant challenge, with more than one million households lacking access to in-home broadband. This gap is more pronounced in lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color. In Crown Heights, where the Brooklyn Gigabit Center is located, 36% of households do not have broadband internet access, which has a substantial impact on children and seniors.

Nicole Robinson-Etienne, Director of External Affairs at LinkNYC, emphasized the need to bridge this gap, especially for seniors and students, saying, “All New Yorkers deserve access to high-speed broadband and the support to effectively leverage that connection to improve their livelihoods. Seniors and students, especially, have a harder time getting online.”

Addressing Specific Community Needs

Over 114,000 New York City students lack access to Wi-Fi outside of school, and nearly half of senior households do not have subscriptions to wireless broadband at home. The “DigitalMe!” workshops at the Brooklyn Gigabit Center played a vital role in addressing these challenges by offering a range of free classes, including basic coding for youth, workforce development training for high school students, and computer education for seniors.

The Brooklyn Gigabit Center, established in 2022 at the Major R. Owens Health & Wellness Community Center in Crown Heights, is a collaborative effort between LinkNYC, Digital Girl, the New York City Office of Technology and Innovation (OTI), and Boldyn Networks. This center offers free high-speed broadband for the local community, along with regular tech education workshops and free access to laptops and tablets.

A Collaborative Effort to Bridge the Digital Divide

Matt Fraser, NYC Chief Technology Officer, recognized the importance of the Brooklyn Gigabit Center and the “DigitalMe!” workshops in bridging the digital divide, stating, “The Gigabit Center’s recent DigitalMe! workshops continued this vital work by providing students and older adults with the necessary tools and training to pursue their dreams and stay connected to loved ones.”

Victoria Lamberth, Chief Development Officer of Connected Communities at Boldyn Networks, further emphasized the significance of partnering with organizations like Digital Girl and the impact they have on the community, particularly in encouraging young women to pursue careers in STEM. Lamberth stated, “Workshops like DigitalMe! are providing young women in Crown Heights with the resources they need to lead successful future careers in STEM.”

In a world where technology is central to success and connectivity, initiatives like the “DigitalMe!” workshops and the Brooklyn Gigabit Center are essential steps toward ensuring digital equity and empowering communities.

A Brighter Digital Future

The collaborative efforts of LinkNYC, Digital Girl, Boldyn Networks, and other partners are contributing to a brighter digital future for the Crown Heights community. These workshops empower individuals with the skills and resources they need to thrive in the digital age, bridging the digital divide and opening doors to new opportunities. As the “DigitalMe!” workshops continue to make a positive impact, we can look forward to a more connected, inclusive, and equitable Brooklyn.

For more information about upcoming programs and the course catalog, please visit Digital Girl’s website.