Philadelphia Bridges the Digital Divide with KEYSPOT

This is a guest post from Ben Burenstein, KEYSPOTS Program Administrator 


When the Office of Innovation and Technology and its partners set out to increase digital inclusion in 2010 by creating open-access computing centers called KEYSPOTS, we made sure to work with organizations throughout the city that were already known for their commitment to Philadelphia’s neediest people. Since then KEYSPOT computers have been used more than a half-million times. I’ve seen their impact on toddlers playing and learning about math and reading at special “Young Explorer” workstations, and on seniors smiling, delighted, as they message their grandkids with Facebook. I’ve heard it from teens making beats with midi keyboards, or chirping happily when they realize they graduated high school by passing computerized tutorials. And I’ve felt it in the proud firm handshakes of adults who progressed through computer basics classes, learning everything from mouse behaviour through Microsoft Office, and finally got jobs.

Many people came to KEYSPOTS nervous, sure that when they typed the wrong thing smoke would start to curl up and they would break the computer. When they meet the trained Computer Instructors and Digital Resource Specialists in the 50+ KEYSPOTS, however, they start to relax; and when they produce their first documents, set up email accounts, or work through the process of filing their taxes (among the many activities that have taken place), they feel more like they are part of the digital revolution rather than apart from it.

It’s been gratifying to provide hubs to support governmental and non-governmental programs. KEYSPOTS have worked on communicating and training Philadelphians on the goals of Shared Posperity. We’ve helped families learn inexpensive ways to obtain computers and get online. We’ve worked with the Digital Service Fellows, Youth Engineering and Science, and Coded by Kids to help youth develop skills that will lead them to higher paying jobs while at the same time preparing a more-tech savvy Philly workforce. One project, “The World Is As Big Or As Small As You Make It was featured in a Sundance Video.

What does the future hold for KEYSPOTS? We’ll continue to cover all the basics we know Philly citizens still need – word-processing, spreadsheets, internet searching, and supporting the schoolwork of kids in many Afterschool programs – while keeping our eyes on developments that are sure to affect us all, such as mobile technologies, virtual reality, and cutting-edge training methods to make sure our educational techniques are as up-to-date as our hardware.

Keep following the PhillyInnovates blog for more stories about KEYSPOTs.

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