Decreasing Digital Literacy Disparities

Do you have a smartphone, laptop, or tablet? Would you be surprised to learn that 2 in 10 Rochester households do not have a computing device?** What about internet access? About 3 in 10 Rochester households do not have an internet subscription.** In an increasingly digital world this means that members of our community are being left behind.

Lack of internet access, computers, and especially the knowledge of how to use them exacerbate inequalities. Without them, for example, individuals have limited capability to apply for jobs and may not have the digital skills needed to advance on the job; some find it more difficult to access services/medical information while others may experience social exclusion. Overall, individuals affected by digital disparities do not have the opportunity to fully participate in the workforce, economy, or society.

In 2013, Literacy Rochester created the Digital Literacy program to help narrow our local digital divide. The program provides adults free computer help at several locations in and around Rochester.

In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, more than 60 Digital Literacy volunteers helped adults operate devices, navigate the internet, and use software. Requests for help included registering to vote, researching colleges, navigating Blackboard (a web-based learning management system), creating a memorial service booklet, writing resumes, applying for benefits, and more. Interactions ranged from just a few moments to upwards of 30 minutes.

Program Highlights (2018-2019 Fiscal Year)

11 Community Sites

Additionally, we are working to do more for our community.

In June, Digital Literacy and the Office of Adult Career and Education Services (OACES) co-hosted a World Refugee Day celebration to show support for refugees in Rochester as well as honor local organizations whose efforts are changing lives. Two refugee students working on digital literacy skills won laptops in a Digital Literacy sponsored giveaway that was held to commemorate their perseverance and growth as well as foster self-reliance by removing barriers to success.

Digital Literacy has also been pairing up with Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo’s Recruiting on the Road initiative to help adults apply for jobs. With the aid of our volunteers and computer bank, hundreds of county residents successfully applied for jobs with LiDestri, US Census 2020, Unither, and Amazon with many getting job offers.

The Digital Literacy program and its volunteers are making a difference not only through the sheer number of outcomes, but also through the quality of interactions. David W., a customer, provided this feedback: “He [the Digital Literacy volunteer] was helpful. And I am satisfied with problems I had, especially uploading [my] resume and recommendation letter. Of course, without him, I would have not been able to submit my job application…”

Do your part in making a difference. Donate. Volunteer. Encourage digital inclusion.

**Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. TYPES OF COMPUTERS AND INTERNET SUBSCRIPTIONS; ID: S2801. County Subdivision: Rochester city, Monroe County, New York. Retrieved on 10/30/2019 from Computing devices includes desktop or laptop; smartphone; tablet or other portable wireless computer; or some other type of computer. An Internet “subscription” refers to a type of service that someone pays for to access the Internet such as a cellular data plan, broadband such as cable, fiber optic or DSL, or other type of service.  

*Value of Volunteer Time of $30.18 Per Hour. Source:

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