Drexel Program Tackles Digital Divide in Philadelphia

Philly Keyspots. Photo by Andrew Huth

The Internet FAST, which lasted from 3 p.m. on April 21 until 8 a.m. on April 23, was one of many projects spearheaded by Keyspots to help bridge the digital gap within the city.

“If you’re not using the Internet, you can’t apply for a job or apply to college,” Ferroni says. “Even places that typically hire entry-level workers, now you have to fill out an online application.”

Keyspots and the Freedom Rings Partnership is a $15 million investment, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to focus on providing Internet access awareness and training where it’s most needed. Through the program, more than 70 computing centers—or Keyspots—are supplied with stations for community members to access the Internet. In addition to the Keyspots, various training programs and PhillyKeyspots.org, as many as 15,000 Philadelphians are expected to benefit from the program.

Part of Drexel’s role in providing for those 15,000 people is to work with the [Community College of Philadelphia] to train Philadelphia Housing Authority residents,” Ferroni says.

Drexel’s initiative will train 5,000 Philadelphians over the lifetime of the program, providing each individual with a netbook computer upon completion of the program.

“Most of the people who come through the program are so excited. This is a huge accomplishment, because they become connected,” Ferroni said. “For a lot of people, the training is the first step in a long journey.”