Education

Oak Hill Collaborative Launches Digital Inclusion Week

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – An initiative to foster computer literacy, awareness and access to the digital world is underway at the Oak Hill Collaborative.

This week marks the launch of “Digital Inclusion Week” at the collaborative, which will host a series of workshops and classes designed to help those who want to improve or acquire basic computer skill sets.

Starting tonight and concluding Friday, the collaborative will present classes on introductory computer skills, website development, cybersecurity and safety, and smart phones for seniors.

The week kicks off with a personal cybersecurity class at 5 p.m. and continues with a seminar on Smart Phones for Seniors at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Introductory Computer Skills at 5 p.m. Thursday, and Building Your First Website, Friday at 5:30 p.m.

All of the programs are free and open to the public and are held at the collaborative’s offices at 507 Oak Hill Ave.

“We have a wide range of things this week that show the breadth of the issue and how we can address people’s needs,” said Patrick Kerrigan, executive director of the Oakhill Collaborative. Click here to watch Kerrigan’s 3 Minutes With interview about classes offered.

The Youngstown Foundation recently awarded a $20,000 grant to support the initiative, Kerrigan said, noting the digital divide in communities such as the Mahoning Valley today runs wider and deeper than ever.

“Wealthier communities across the state and country have far greater access because there’s been government support, particularly on a municipal level,” Kerrigan said. Local governments with a more robust tax base are able to develop systems that connect the public to lower cost internet access with faster download speeds.

“We’re very slow here compared to across the state and nation,” Kerrigan said. This has a particular impact on students, who rely on the internet at home to complete homework assignments or job applications.

“Over 80% of all teachers assign homework that’s online, and if you don’t have the capabilities, you’re going to get further behind,” Kerrigan said. The longer these skills remain unaddressed, the more likely the chance of a larger percentage of the population that is computer illiterate.

“I see it everyday,” Kerrigan said. “I have people coming in all the time who don’t have the first bit of knowledge of how to do Word, how to do resumes, apply for jobs online and simple office tasks.”

It’s this population that the Oak Hill Collaborative wants to target and elevate their skills through initiatives such as Digital Inclusion Week, he said.

“There’s still a lot of heavy lifting to do,” Kerrigan said, noting that Oak Hill has partnered with other area agencies such as the Western Reserve Port Authority, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, and the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County to form a working group to explore ways to improve digital access to the most underserved areas of the community.

Click here to hear more from Kerrigan about the classes being offered at the Oak Hill Collaborative.

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Pictured from left are: Bob Jadloski, Sarah Lown, SaTonia Johnson, Pat Kerrigan, Jan Strasfeld, Cryshanna Jackson and Keith Logan.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.