Mayor, City departments, and Google WiFi announce digital equity program for public housing sites

The comprehensive program aims to help those most impacted by the digital divide

Mayor Mark Farrell, City Administrator Naomi Kelly and Google WiFi today announced a comprehensive digital equity program at two public housing sites to provide residents with digital skills training, free high-speed internet access and Google WiFi devices.

“Access to the internet and digital skills are necessary tools for San Francisco residents to compete and thrive in today’s modern society,” said Mayor Mark Farrell. “With over 100,000 San Franciscans who still lack internet access at home, I am working every day to provide equitable solutions for communities and residents who have been left behind by the status quo.”

The Department of Technology, Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, the Office of Economic Workforce Development, the City’s Committee on Information Technology, and the City Administrator’s Office of Digital Equity have been partnering since January to pilot this digital equity program at the Robert B. Pitts and Hunters Point West public housing sites.

The Office of Digital Equity selected the two housing sites following a needs assessment late last year. Robert B. Pitts is a 203-unit family housing site in the Western Addition and Hunters Point West is a 110-unit family housing site in Bayview-Hunters Point.

Since January, these sites have been receiving the following services:

  • Free, high-speed internet access to all residents through a partnership between the Department of Technology and local internet service provider, Monkeybrains.
  • Onsite computer labs offering digital literacy classes, workshops on technology topics and internet basics and a program to prepare transitional-age youth for careers in IT.
  • Free technology support and hardware repair services.

“As Chair of the Committee on Information Technology (COIT), one of my top priorities has been digital inclusion, and we need both public and private investment to meet this goal,” said City Administrator Naomi Kelly. “I am pleased that public housing residents are the first to benefit from this critical initiative.”

“The Department of Technology supports empowered communities by delivering reliable internet access to secure opportunities for residents and increase positive life outcomes,” said the City Chief Information Officer for San Francisco, Linda Gerull. 

Additionally, Google has generously donated 100 Google WiFi devices to help residents connect wirelessly to the internet. The devices are being distributed at each housing site to residents who complete a two-hour training workshop covering internet basics, online safety and web resources for employment, education and health.

"Google continues our effort to give back in communities where we live and work," said Rebecca Prozan, Head of Public Affairs in California for Google. "The donation of Google WiFi devices helps get our neighbors connected and is a step in the right direction as we aim to minimize the digital divide."

In addition to the agencies involved in this program, several additional City departments are actively addressing the digital divide, including the Department of Aging and Adult Services and the San Francisco Public Library. The library is spearheading the upcoming Connect with Tech Week 2018, from May 7 – 12, with a series of events across the city to promote online access and technology skill-building to reduce digital disparities in local communities. The full schedule of more than 60 events and classes is available at sfpl.org/ConnectWithTech.

The ability to access and effectively use digital technology is a vital necessity in today’s world. Yet more than 100,000 San Franciscans lack high-speed internet at home and many residents lack basic digital literacy skills, with the city’s lowest income residents among the most at-risk.

City efforts are focused on addressing the digital divide to help all residents use technology to achieve the following outcomes:

  • Improved education and further access to education opportunities.
  • Obtaining meaningful employment and access to apply for jobs online.
  • Accessing health care and health information.
  • Accessing government programs and services.
  • Finding information and services necessary for daily life.

The Department of Technology, in partnership with Google and various City Departments, will evaluate the program and its outcomes in the summer and expects to consider expanding the program to additional public housing sites with its partners.  

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