Man sitting at computer receiving assistance
May 12, 2022

Investing in Digital Access and Literacy

A well-connected neighborhood is a healthy one. Internet access and digital literacy resources are crucial to building equitable communities—especially now, when technology plays such a vital role in our daily lives. From scheduling COVID-19 vaccination appointments to assisting children with online learning, families use digital tools every day to attend to their basic needs.

As the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago continues to evolve in tandem with our changing world, we’re finding exciting ways to incorporate digital wellness into our mission.

With support from the City of Chicago’s Chicago Connected program, we’ve connected more than 1,850 households with no-cost, high-speed internet.

This year, we also set up our Community IT Help Desk, a bilingual phone line through which local residents ask questions about Internet connectivity, online learning tools, navigating email software, and more. To date, we’ve helped 276 unique callers with 554 technology-related inquiries.

Ana Lopez, a Chicago resident who called our help desk looking for assistance with Zoom, reflected on the impact of our community-driven IT support.

“The skills I have learned have served me greatly because now, I am able to communicate with other people through the applications that I now know how to use,” Lopez said. “I am very happy because I can now call my native country. If I had known how to use [these applications] before, I would have been able to talk to my brother before he died. I would like to thank the YMCA and Chicago Connected for the great help that they have given me.”

To further bridge the digital divide, our Association opened in-person Computer Support Labs at the Kelly Hall YMCA, Rauner Family YMCA, and South Side YMCA in November. Community members can use these labs at no cost to apply to jobs, take free training courses on basic computer use, and access resources like unemployment insurance, RTA bus passes, and more.

“With help available both in-person and over the phone, I hope that more and more people ask us tech-related questions about services they’re qualified and eligible for,” said Jorge Mora, Community IT Help Desk Specialist at the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago. “Thanks to the Y’s collaboration with Chicago Connected, we’re able to assist a lot more people at a much greater capacity.”