As DigitalC focused its work at the intersection of community and technology, the need for a new type of space began to emerge - a neighborhood-based space which welcomed a range of users from those seeking basic digital literacy to technology professionals. This space would welcome members to work, learn, and collaborate around community and technology.
Recently, DigitalC launched the Connect the Unconnected program. It has received strong media coverage in the Cleveland PlainDealer, WCPN (NPR)'s Sound of Ideas and in blog postings around the world. In this blog posting, I offer details on the technical design, the solution architecture, and our hopes for America's first, dedicated gigabit network designed specifically to support the unserved and underserved members of our community.
During the week of May 8th, Cleveland participated in Digital Inclusion Week (DIW), a national initiative that seeks to promote online access and technology skill-building in efforts to reduce digital disparities in communities.
The week included roundtable discussions, city council meetings and talks surrounding the problems of digital inclusion in the city Cleveland. Among topics covered were AT&T's redlining of neighborhoods, DigitalC's Connect the Unconnected Program and statistical and analytical work regarding the issues of connection, employment, and education.
National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) initiated Digital Inclusion Week across the country to pinpoint and bring about alliances among communities in order to address issues of connectivity equality for everyone. NDIA advocates an inclusive digital entry point if we are to give everyone a chance to enter into the digital economy.
DigitalC hosted a ribbon cutting for its Connect The Unconnected Program at CMHA's Cedar High Rise to launch America's first high-speed broadband (as defined by the FCC) Internet access in public housing. The internet access serves as a backbone to our Restart Program, a digital skills training program for qualified Cleveland populations.
In Cleveland, bridging the digital divide and workforce training gets a boost
I don’t consider myself a techie. I don’t know how to code, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about how my iPhone works and although I grasp the idea of data science, I’m by no means a practitioner. Despite this and the fact that my educational background is in business and public administration, I work for a technology organization, and technology and the internet are integral to both my personal and professional life. Increasingly, stories like mine are becoming the narrative of the 21 st century. Technology is permeating nearly every facet of our lives and technology know-how and skills are becoming prerequisites, not just for tech jobs but for employment across all sectors.
Meanwhile, the city of Cleveland retains its ranking as the third least connected city in the nation, behind only Detroit, Michigan and Brownsville, Texas. Approximately 50% of Cleveland residents don’t have broadband internet connectivity at home.
The Digital Divide Slows Workforce Development
That’s an astounding figure! Think of the variety of ways you use the internet every day. From your morning news, to social media, to staying connected at work, to paying your bills, taking a class online, checking in with your child’s teacher, reviewing your test results from your doctor; the list goes on and on. Meanwhile, half of Cleveland’s residents lack the access to do any of these things.
Concurrently, Cleveland employers are struggling to fill jobs locally due to a growing technology skills gap in the region. Today, many job vacancies are only posted online, where approximately half of Clevelanders don’t have ready access to view them. It’s clear a vicious cycle is occurring, one that I believe will be insurmountable if we, as a region, fail to make inclusive, equitable access to technology a priority.
A Solution: Internet Connection and Workforce Training Programs
At DigitalC, we are committed to addressing the issues of access and digital skills building for the most vulnerable members of our population. Through two pilot programs, we will begin proving the impact of home broadband access and digital literacy training for improving social and economic outcomes for Cleveland residents. Our first program, Connect the Unconnected, will bring broadband connections to approximately 800 residents of CMHA high rise communities, as well as residents of the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries Men’s Shelter and students at Stepstone Academy. Recipients of the connectivity will also be provided with the opportunity to complete a basic digital literacy training course, teaching the fundamentals of computer and internet use, after which they will receive a refurbished computer to utilize at home.
Growing out of this effort at connectivity and basic training, DigitalC is also piloting ReStart, a technology skills building program aimed at creating on-ramps to the digital economy for under-employed and unemployed Clevelanders. Utilizing local assets and resources, DigitalC is collaborating with community workforce and training partners to embed digital skills training curriculum into existing workforce development programming, providing opportunities for marginalized populations to access everything from basic, foundational training in computer use, to intermediate curriculum in areas like computational thinking and Microsoft Office Suite, to certification and credentialing opportunities that can act as pathways to employment or higher education preparedness.
Together, Connect the Unconnected and ReStart are creating opportunities to chart a new course in Cleveland around connectivity and access for all. We may not all want or need to be techies, but the speed and impact of technology and innovation isn’t slowing down anytime soon. It’s up to us as a community to ensure that everyone in our region has the resources and tools to keep pace.
Click here to see our director of programs, Liz Forester and the CEO of CMHA, Jeffery Patterson as they discuss with Ideastream the partnership of our organizations in the creation of ReStart and Connect The Unconnected.
Data Analysis of Pediatric Asthma Patients Gets Positive Reception for Next Steps in Funding
On October 25 and 26, 2016, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) convened a Global Cities Teams Challenge dedicated to superclusters. A supercluster is a set of cities facing a similar set of problems with a common solution. By using supercluster solutions, cities can solve existing problems with existing software.
The chosen supercluster solution sets are:
Emergency Preparedness, Disaster Recovery, and Resilience
Energy, Utilities, Water, and Microgrids
Environment and Healthcare
Addressing Disease as a Supercluster Solution
DigitalC presented as the only group working to solve a significant disease, pediatric asthma. We are involved in two specific projects to fight the disease:
Reducing the Frequency and Morbidity of Pediatric Asthma in Dayton, OH
Connecting Schools, Clinicians and Caregivers Via a 1 Gigabit Connection in Chattanooga, TN
The presentations were timely and well-received, with specific and helpful questions asked by our audience that will help as we work to move both projects forward. For example, we must work out what to do with a kid that doesn’t wear the asthma air quality sensor. Or, how can we use the technology for this project for other healthcare projects.
How the asthma app works
An air quality sensor is worn by a child with asthma. The sensor is continuously sending data to a smartwatch also worn by the child. The data is retrieved wirelessly and transmitted to the data hub. Any changes in a child’s breathing that is being monitored is tracked to see if and when the child should go to a hospital.
"Childhood asthma is a debilitating disease that affects 12% of children and that number is growing," said Marv Schwartz, Principal Investigator.
"By using the first wearable air quality monitor and a smartwatch, medical teams will now get reports on air quality and a child's breathing, warning them if there is an emergency. This kind of pre-warning has never been available before, and the impact will reduce complications and could save lives."
Communication is key between school, home, and doctor
In the second project we are working on monitoring the child’s asthma through a combination of the school nurse, an at-home care provider, and the child’s doctor. This project is underway in Tennessee as we focus on better communications between all three parties.
More on the study here.
Two following graphics by Mari Hulick show more detail of the two projects.