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Current and past Digital Inclusion Fellows from all five cohorts took part in the National Digital Inclusion Alliance’s Net Inclusion 2019 earlier this month.
Fellows joined digital inclusion community practitioners, advocates, academics, Internet service providers, and policymakers from around the world for the conference on April 1-3, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Several of the Fellows presented at the conference, as did NTEN’s Senior Program Manager Leana Mayzlina.
2016 and 2018 Digital Inclusion Fellow Munirih Jester of San Antonio received the Charles Benton Digital Equity Champion Award. As the Digital Inclusion ConnectHome Coordinator for the San Antonio Housing Authority, Munirih has delivered digital literacy skills training to nearly 2,000 participants, awarded nearly 900 free computers, and helped to connect 1,069 homes to the internet.
The three-day conference was a valuable opportunity for Fellows to learn about digital inclusion best practices and to showcase their own digital inclusion work. We asked the 2019 Fellows for their top lessons learned as first-time Net Inclusion attendees, and to share what’s next for their Fellowship projects.
A’Sarah Green, East Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland, OH
A’Sarah spoke about part of her Digital Inclusion Fellowship project, the Technology Passport Earn a Device (EAD) Program. “Presenting my work was scary to me, as that was my first time presenting to a group that large,” says A’Sarah. “There’s an amazing amount of people out there with different organizations doing the same work on many different scales, sharing a breathtaking amount of knowledge and program ideas.”
Her perspective on digital inclusion has changed since she started her Fellowship. “I knew that my community was suffering. However, other communities are going through the same thing and there are more people out there like myself working to better the communities as a whole.”
A’Sarah’s next steps as a Fellow? “To continue spreading digital literacy the best way I can!” Her Technology Passport EAD Program will focus on supporting participants in completing digital literacy trainings in order to earn a laptop computer they can take home.
Krysti Nellermoe, International Rescue Committee, Salt Lake City, UT
Krysti presented about her organization’s work to integrate Digital Inclusion into existing programming to support newly arrived refugees. She was also a panelist on the session Developing and Managing Partnerships in Digital Inclusion, in which she outlined how IRC SLC balances working with tech companies and corporations for long-term mutual success in digital inclusion programming.
“I discussed how important it is to find corporate partners, specifically certified B Corps, with similar values and a desire to learn about the actual needs of the communities,” says Krysti. “I emphasized ongoing training on needs for corporate leads and volunteers during every interaction and that formalized MOUs and ongoing communication is integral to effective partnerships.”
While experiencing the conference and working on her initial Fellowship plans, Krysti says she’s “acutely aware of the need for policy-level changes to accompany ground-level work to turn the tide on digital equity. “Organizations will also need to look inward and outward in their digital inclusion efforts, not forgetting their own staff’s needs for digital education and access.”
In the coming month, her Fellowship project will focus on integrating digital inclusion into all existing IRC SLC resettlement services to help newly-arrived refugees access the digital tools they need to maintain safety and security, access higher level education and job opportunities, and start adding their voice through content creation and exploration in the digital age.
Samuel Maldonado, Orange County Literacy Council, Carrboro/Raleigh-Durham, NC
Samuel enjoyed the opportunity to share and talk with others from around the world and learn about their programs. “I realize that is not only one effort,” says Samuel. ”Instead it’s an alliance that could change lives.”
Attending Net Inclusion was a valuable experience for Samuel. “I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to be seated with CEOs of organizations, with leaders who runs huge programs, and with founders and sponsors in this field.”
As he begins his Fellowship work, Samuel’s goals are to continue to learn, connect with others in the field, and grow the impact in his community in North Carolina.
Shenee King, CHN Housing Partners, Cleveland, OH
Shenee was a panelist for a session on Social Justice and Digital Inclusion. She presented on special needs and technology and senior parents and guardians. “I learned that this is a topic a lot of people are interested in,” says Shenee. “There’s a shared experience with school staff trying to fight for access to technology for students who have special needs. There is a lot of data to support the work we are doing.”
As her Fellowship project progresses Shenee says she’s becoming more aware of the necessity of the digital inclusion work. “I am encouraged by the growth of the industry and the ability to grow in the field.”
Special thanks to our Cohort 5 sponsors—Google Fiber, The Cleveland Foundation, and the Meyer Memorial Trust—for their commitment to bridging digital divides and supporting the Digital Inclusion Fellowship.