Digital Skills for the Digital Age_
With 8 out of 10 middle-skill jobs now relying on digital skills, digital literacy is a minimum requirement for today’s workforce. In 2021, Centri Tech Foundation engaged dozens of community development organizations seeking to innovate their digital equity solutions for residents. Insights gathered from this discovery phase informed the design of the inaugural Digital Integrators program, a national pilot set to launch in spring 2022. The Foundation will support a cohort of Digital Integrators Partners whose mission is to support the digital advancement of residents and communities as a whole through skills building and workforce training.
The Digital Integrators program is designed to foster innovations within digital equity among motivated community organizations and to demonstrate how existing investments in technology adoption can be leveraged to create new opportunities for economic mobility. Digital Integrators Partners are shepherding an inclusive culture of use to promote universal digital adoption in their communities. They work to foster the leadership potential, growth opportunities, and technical skills of community residents. The pilot will directly support Partners to create and/or scale unique Digital Integrators programs.
In October 2021, CTF began curating the first cohort of Digital Integrators Partners and collaborating with them to introduce innovations for testing and implementation in early 2022. Throughout the six-month pilot, the pilots will be qualitatively assessed to identify opportunities for programmatic scale and to provide Partners with an impact analysis of their work.
This idea of training community members to enable a culture of digital use is not a new one. The concept was in fact inspired by the highly-successful Digital Connectors program developed by One Economy Corporation and Centri Tech Foundation’s president, Marta Urquilla, in the early 2000’s. The Digital Connectors began with a pilot in Washington, D.C., and ultimately expanded to operate in dozens of cities throughout the country. In all, 10,000 Digital Connectors received technology training and stipends, and helped more than 1 million of their neighbors achieve digital adoption.
"Digital Integrators are on the front lines of the movement for Digital Advancement, working tirelessly to connect residents and communities to digital access and the digital skills that are so essential to participating in today’s economy. From housing residents to families to older Americans, Digital Integrators are innovating to meet people where they are and helping them adopt the digital tools that are essential to life, work, and learning."
— Marta Urquilla, President, Centri Tech Foundation
A recognition of our country’s growing “digital divide” takes early hold among policy advocates, spurring public and private efforts to connect the unconnected via public access points, such as libraries and newly-formed “community technology centers.”
First home Broadband installations begin, with about 2.5% of American households connected via an “always-on” Internet connection, surpassing the speed of dial-up connections which maxxed out at 56Kbps.
A new nonprofit organization, One Economy Corporation, forms to help bring internet connectivity, content, and training to low-Income Americans as a means to combat poverty. One Economy’s approach has a particular focus on home-based access for all.
One Economy creates the Beehive, a new online destination for education and tools to help low-income Americans meet the challenges and opportunities related to their finances, health, education, employment, and more.
One Economy launches the Digital Connectors program in Washington, D.C. to hire and train high-school aged youth in technology skills and then deploy them to serve as technology ambassadors in their neighborhoods. This pilot program would ultimately be replicated as a national model in communities from DC to San Francisco, resulting in more than one million hours of service to low-income neighborhoods and 10,000 young people trained.
One Economy launches the Public Internet Channel, a new website devoted to bringing public purpose programming to audiences often left out of the media landscape. The effort was co-chaired by Senators Barack Obama and John McCain.
President Obama signs into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), a stimulus package that includes $7.2 billion devoted to promoting broadband infrastructure and adoption.
One Economy receives the largest broadband adoption grant as part of the ARRA from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). This $28.5 million grant, backed by $25 million in private match, enables One Economy to expand its reach and impact into communities across the nation through its relationships with over 900 community-based organizations (CBOs), its connection of 27,000 units of affordable housing to broadband, and digital skills training to more than 260,000 Americans.
ARRA also commissions the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create a National Broadband Plan, which was unveiled in March. The plan calls for 100 million homes to have 100/50 Mbps internet connections by the year 2020, 1 gig connections to community anchor institutions, and affordable access to in-home broadband connectivity and training for all Americans.
After 13 years of impactful work, One Economy Corporation’s highlights include: pioneering shared in-home broadband access and connecting more than 40,000 low-income households; training 10,000 Digital Connectors as tech ambassadors for nearly 1 million neighborhood residents; creating life-enhancing content and applications used by 20 million people, and creating the Bring IT Home policy campaign, which encouraged in-home broadband in publicly-financed housing in 40 states.
Mobile devices become the most common means of accessing the Internet, partly as a result of telecommunications companies' now-ubiquitous implementation of “4G” or fourth generation mobile networks, capable of transmitting data at speeds of 100Mbps.
Nearly 25 million Americans remain disconnected from broadband at home. For low-income and rural communities the numbers are worst of all–with nearly half of all households making less than $35,000/year still disconnected.
In December, a small group of entrepreneurs, including former founders of One Economy Corporation, found a new company called Centri Tech, to address tech infrastructure and adoption as a means to improve and enhance the lives of Americans, particularly the un- and under-connected.
Early in the new year, the sudden outbreak of a deadly new virus is declared a global emergency. In the U.S., and around the world, stay-at-home orders go into effect and people are left to manage their work, education, and healthcare online. Our collective lack of preparedness for this technological challenge is laid bare.
In November, Centri Tech officially launches, along with its nonprofit, the Centri Tech Foundation. Together, they lay the groundwork to execute on our new national imperative, Digital Advancement.
Local governments, places of business, and school districts all scramble to find fast and effective solutions to our now-obvious technical shortcomings. Some school systems distribute free devices to students that need them to bring classes 100% online. Internet connectivity remains a harder problem to solve, leaving many students to park outside of free public wifi hotspots to download and upload their assignments.
How did we get here?
Centri Tech Annual Report 2021