Bridging the Digital Literacy Divide
Digital literacy has never been more important to performing everyday functions from paying bills to applying for jobs to learning about the world around us. The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago recognizes that closing the digital divide is a necessary endeavor as we work to strengthen our community and connect people to the resources necessary for social and economic mobility.
Through our partnership with Comcast — and their $500,000 investment to enhance our digital equity efforts — the Y has been empowered to provide free in-person computer labs, known as Tech Hubs, at six YMCA locations: Irving Park Y, Kelly Hall Y, Lake View Y, McCormick Y, Rauner Family Y, and South Side Y. Tech Hubs are open to all community members, regardless of previous affiliation with the Y.
Additionally, as part of Comcast’s investment, the company launched Lift Zones within the Tech Hubs, which provide WiFi-connected safe spaces for our community members to learn digital skills, find jobs, complete online homework, and much more. These Lift Zones are essential to supporting the growth and development of our neighbors and communities — both young and young-at-heart — and are already making a significant impact on the next generation.
“When I look at these young faces, I know you are our future leaders,” said Dalila Wilson-Scott, Executive Vice President of Comcast and Chief Diversity Officer and President of the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation, during the announcement of the multi-year partnership between Comcast and the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago. “We need to make sure that all of you are equipped with the best tools, resources, connectivity, and skills so that you can lead us into a new era.”
Tech Hubs, powered by Xfinity, give community members access to not only technology but also free digital literacy support via our Digital Navigators. In a study released in June 2022 by Boston Consulting Group, more than 65% of survey respondents reported that a Digital Navigator helped them to obtain internet access, a computer, or a tablet at home.
The Y’s Digital Navigators are committed to helping visitors access and build digital skills on the internet and with technology in general. They work to connect community members without existing digital resources at home to local and federal programs that cover the cost of internet service for those in need.
These resources, plus our bilingual Chicago Connected Community Help Desk, have allowed the Y to further our digital-equity service portfolio and provide our community with tools to connect with their purpose and share their discoveries with the world.
The Y continues to work hard to provide internet, digital technology, and — most importantly — educational tools for our communities.
“The digital equity work undertaken during the last decade by the YMCA, Comcast, and our many other partners continues to bring knowledge, joy, and connection to the individuals and families we serve,” said Dorri McWhorter, President and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago. “More and more people in our communities feel empowered to get online, to learn, and to build the 21st-century skills they need to succeed in school, in the workplace, and in life.”