It’s been over a month since the Digital Inclusion Summit, but meaningful engagement with technology is something that’s always on my mind. On Monday, I had the chance to help out Emily, a co-worker at the Y @ Cascade People’s Center. She reached out to YTech hoping to use some of our laptops for a basic computer class for the folks utilizing the food bank at the Immanuel Lutheran Church across the street. On the Mondays the food bank is open, there is a lull between when the tickets are passed out and when the individuals receive their food, so the CPC opens their doors for the interim and offers coffee and tea. Emily saw this as an opportunity to engage with this population and provide an opportunity in addition to coffee and tea. She felt this population could benefit from a basic computer workshop, but wanted to insure that it was taught in the most accessible and meaningful way. The demographics of the population utilizing the food bank are predominantly Ukrainians who speak Russian. Emily reached out to Jane, CenturyLink’s Market Development Manager, and Jane reached out to Olga, a CenturyLink employee who happens to speak Russian.
Monday morning arrived and I set up the laptops, Olga set up her PowerPoint and Jane powered up her camera. Olga went around to each of the tables and, in Russian, invited people to participate in her presentation. Many were hesitant to participate at first, but as Olga continued on with her presentation, people started meandering to the laptops to follow along. As an outsider watching the interaction between Olga and those engaged, I was reminded how important it is to understand why individuals don’t have access to computers then try meet them halfway. Emily saw an opportunity to meaningfully connect with the population using the CPC and took advantage of it. As a bystander, I could see how pleased the individuals were when someone spoke to them in a language they understood. After the training, Olga mentioned that many of the participants were interested in learning about programs offering cheaper internet and computers. (Both Comcast and CenturyLink offer similar basic internet programs.) This population is clearly interested in having access to computers but, because of the language barrier, they were unaware of the many programs in existence which many of them would qualify for. I was happy YTech could support this meaningful training and it was reinvigorating for me to be a part of this collaboration.