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Federal officials learned the value of partnerships and working together to bridge the digital divide during a recent visit to the District of Columbia Housing Authority.

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development visited DCHA’s Southwest Family Enhancement and Career Center on May 30 following a meeting with several members of the dcConnectHome partnership. That partnership includes DCHA, the mayor’s office, Connect.DC, EveryoneOn, National Center for Women in Information Technology, AspireIT, College Board, and other organizations.

“We wanted to make sure we are invested in our children and adults in public housing. Through effective partnerships, we have been getting our families connected to high speed internet and getting computers to our children,” said DCHA Interim Executive Director Nathan Bovelle at the roundtable meeting. “It sounds very simple, but it is not as simple as it sounds.”

The District of Columbia is one of 28 communities nationwide selected in 2015 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to participate in ConnectHome, a federal initiative that aims to increase access and technology education for HUD-served families. ConnectHome has far exceeded its goals and connected more than 20,000 people to at-home internet service in the first year. . HUD and EveryoneOn recently expanded the goal to connect 350,000 people living in HUD-assisted housing to the internet across 100 new communities by 2020. The local program, dcConnectHome, uses a holistic approach based on the belief that effective, sustainable digital inclusion includes the entire family.  D.C.’s approach casts a wide net that includes in-home/community space Wi-Fi connectivity, early childhood education content, college preparation, workforce development, and STEM educational opportunities for youth.

The local effort would not be possible without the “buy in” from Mayor Muriel Bowser and DCHA’s former Executive Director Adrianne Todman, said Tomás Talamante, senior associate director in the mayor’s Office of Federal & Regional Affairs.

“The mayor wanted to see D.C. as a pioneer in this space,” he said.

Without dedicated funding, D.C. officials, DCHA, and other local organizations successfully connected 1,785 households throughout DCHA’s portfolio to high speed internet thanks to dcConnectHome. Nearly 760 school-age children live within the 1,785 households.

One in four D.C. households does not have an internet connection. About 65 percent of those households live in Wards 5, 7, and 8—where the vast majority of DCHA’s portfolio is located.

“We tried to make sure we took advantage of every local and national resource that was offered to us,” said Kimberley Cole, DCHA’s director of planning, noting that the acquisition of devices and services were challenging. “We want to make sure this is something that has a long-term piece, that it is sustainable for our families.”

The officials discussed how to move on with the program’s current success and toured the career center and its computer lab.

In addition to having the new Wi-Fi access, DCHA customers have participated in several tech-focused projects and programs since dcConnectHome began. This and last summer more than 50 D.C. youth built Kano computers they can use at home. In another program, girls took part in AspireIT, a program that connects young women to girls who are interested in technology. In that program, the girls learned how to build their own web pages. DCHA is scheduling a similar program this summer. DCHA also held a technology fair for its customers. A partnership with the University of the District of Columbia and Apploi is at the Southwest Family Enhancement and Career Center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last modified: 7/24/2017 11:32:35 AM