A Connect 313 Grant is Keeping Families Together

A Connect 313 Grant is Keeping Families Together

The bond between a parent and a child is one of the most important relationships in a child’s life – and it’s critical for their development. But, for kids with incarcerated parents, the separation adds a barrier – one Developing Despite Distance (3D) aims to break through.

“When [kids are] connected to their parents, they show up better in schools, on their sports teams, and in their community spaces because they’re getting that support,” says Tiffany Brown, 3D’s Founder and Executive Director. “My mother was incarcerated when I was a teen and we maintained a positive connection, despite me only being able to visit her one time in almost 4 years.”

The Detroit-based non-profit supports young men, ages 10-18, whose parents are incarcerated. The 3D team helps with letter writing, group counseling, field trips, and prison visits, all of which are key to nurturing parent-child relationships. Unfortunately, during COVID, prison visits stopped for nearly 2 years. Even now, visits are still restricted behind plexiglass walls.

To keep kids connected, Tiffany applied for a Connect 313 tech grant. The grant gave 20 children Chromebooks that they’re using to communicate with their parents.

“It felt like Christmas when we pulled those Chromebooks out that day,” Tiffany says. “I think the more we can provide access and minimize barriers, that’s exactly what we need to be doing for young people, just give them the opportunity and they’ll take it beyond what even we are thinking about.”

Although Tiffany says nothing compares to face-to-face visits, the laptops provide families a key tool to send emails and photos and get near-instant feedback from their parents, who are often hundreds of miles away. They also hope to add video chat capability soon.

“I know that parenting from prison can still be effective with the right level of support,” Tiffany says. “I’m really thankful for this [grant] and I’m thankful that the Connect 313 team made it really easy for us to apply. [This kind of support is what] non-profit leaders, like myself, have really, really been hoping for and dreaming of.”

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Join Us for Detroit’s Digital Inclusion Week

Join Us for Detroit’s Digital Inclusion Week

Digital inclusion brings opportunity, education, and connection. Ensuring all Detroit residents have access to the digital world is Connect 313’s fundamental goal.

Join us October 3-7 as Connect 313 hosts Detroit’s fourth annual Digital Inclusion Week, a 5-day event that promotes digital equity and highlights digital inclusion efforts happening across the Motor City. Throughout the week, Connect 313 will celebrate the organizations and leaders helping to  bridge the digital divide, activate partnerships and activities to increase community engagement, and connect Detroit residents to free information and resources.

“A big portion is connecting with the community where they are. You can’t assume that people know what’s out there,” said Kaleena Louis, Connect 313’s Policy, Advocacy, and Ecosystem vice chair who’s been working to help plan the event. “This year we’re looking forward to putting on an amazing week for the city that will have more in-person engagement.”

The event includes special events, panel discussions, hands-on activities, and more. Detroiters who attend will have the opportunity to take part in one of Connect 313’s free digital empowerment workshops.

This year, on day 2, Connect 313 will host its Inaugural Research Symposium. More than a dozen academic professionals will gather to reflect on the past decade of digital inclusion and highlight modern-day initiatives through presentations, workshops, panels, and roundtables. The Research Symposium is designed to be a day of learning. Speakers will cover numerous topics including digital equity and inclusion, supporting children in the classroom, creating digitally accessible neighborhoods, and more.

The full schedule is as follows:

  • Day 1 – Leadership and Stakeholders
    • Learn from digital inclusion leaders through talks and panel discussions.
  • Day 2 – Academic Research Symposium: A Decade of Digital Inclusion
    • Amplify digital inclusion research from the last decade through interactive presentations, panel discussions, and screen-side chats.
  • Day 3 – A Focus on Small Business
    • Offer tangible support to local entrepreneurs to help them run and scale their companies.
  • Day 4 – Connected Communities
    • Provide interactive opportunities for Detroiters to learn, engage, and become more digitally connected.
  • Day 5 – The Future is NOW: Engaging Youth in a Meaningful Way
    • Engage with Detroit youth to help increase awareness and opportunities that exist in the digital world.

Don’t miss this amazing week! Register for Detroit’s Digital Inclusion week here.

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Connect 313’s FREE Digital Literacy Playbook is Available Now

Connect 313’s FREE Digital Literacy Playbook is Available Now

Digital literacy is key to bridging the digital divide. But, ensuring people have the basic skills they need to be comfortable and confident online can be difficult, especially in tech’s ever-changing environment. That’s where Connect 313’s Digital Literacy Playbook comes in. You can access free online resource now, by clicking here.

“Some people say they don’t want to use digital technology because there’s too much to learn, but that’s just fear,” says Shadora Ford, Connect 313’s Special Projects and Shared Resources chair. “I want people to get over that fear by teaching them and finding creative ways to do so.”

Connect 313’s new Digital Literacy Playbook is designed to helps people learn basic digital literacy skills and gain confidence. It includes a digital literacy curriculum and users guides to help people find a device, connect to the internet, and get started with video calling.

“It also includes tips for learners, educators, and organizations to help them utilize the playbook,” says, Qumisha Goss Connect 313’s Digital Literacy and Skilling Committee management lead who helped build the Digital Literacy Playbook.

In addition to the playbook, watch our Instagram page for Tech Tip Tuesday, our social media campaign that share simple tips and resources – including digital discounts and tech terminology. There’s also an information library to help people find, evaluate, and use information, as well as cyber security education to ensure people keep their passwords and accounts information secure.

Using the curriculum Connect 313 created, participants can take or teach online computer-focused courses. Examples include “Introduction to Computers,” a class that teaches people how to use a mouse, keyboard, and monitor. Those a bit more familiar with technology can take the “Basic Computer Skills” course, which teaches users how to manages files, use a flash drive, and the Internet.

“It’s not that [people] don’t want to be involved, it’s that they’re afraid of not knowing,” says Naimah Wade, Connect 313’s Director of Research and Learning. “Give yourself permission to make mistakes… jump in even if you’re nervous about what you don’t know. You may be wonderfully surprised.”

For more information about the Digital Literacy Playbook, visit Connect 313’s website.

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The White House

Rescue Plan Funding: Eight states and localities committing Fiscal Recovery Funds to improve access to reliable, high-speed internet

Rescue Plan Funding: Eight states and localities committing Fiscal Recovery Funds to improve access to reliable, high-speed internet:

In a Press Release issued by the Biden-Harris Administration  announced over $25 Billion in American Rescue Plan Funding to Help Ensure Every American Has Access to High Speed, Affordable Internet.  The City of Detroit is listed as an example of how this work is successfully being carried out.

“Detroit, Michigan will begin construction this summer, using $10 million in Fiscal Recovery Funds, to pilot a fiber-to-the-home connectivity project to approximately 2,000 homes in the Hope Village neighborhood with affordable 1 Gig service.”

To learn more about Detroit’s Fiber to home project checkout our blog post about why this work is important and the City of Detroit’s Digital Inclusion & Equity Page for updates.

You can read the full fact sheet detailing the funding for the American Rescue Plan Funding here.

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Connect 313 Fuels Fiber Optic Initiative in HOPE Village

Connect 313 Fuels Fiber Optic Initiative in HOPE Village  

Losing internet access for 45 days in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic is something Jeff Jones will never forget. The longtime HOPE Village resident, a husband and father of school-aged children, recounted that harrowing ordeal during a series of community meetings held at Focus:HOPE to discuss Detroit’s digital equity plans. The City of Detroit hosted the meetings. 

“For one or two days, [losing internet access] is not a problem. You can do without your Netflix,” he told the crowd. “But my kids were in school virtually. We lost our internet, and we lost our phone service. Instantly our neighborhood was shunted back to the 19th century. We couldn’t connect to the internet. Our lives were interrupted.” 

 Jones reached out to everyone he could. Day two became week two and his frustration and the community’s hardship grew. Eventually, he connected with Joshua Edmonds, Detroit’s director of digital inclusion, and service was restored. But that 45-day outage is a stark example of why an investment in the city’s internet infrastructure is urgently needed. 

 Beginning this summer, a $10 million pilot project will deliver high-speed fiber optic internet access to every home and business in HOPE Village, located between the Lodge and Davison Freeways, Dexter to the west, and Hamilton to the east. Using federal American Rescue Plan Act funding, the effort will dramatically improve access and reliability. Property owners will be invited to ‘opt in’ and participate. 

 “We hope this new project will reconnect our neighborhood, [and] put us on a path to a bright and prosperous 21st century,” Jones said. 

Connect 313 Leads the Charge 

The idea for an automated open access network originated with a recommendation from Connect 313, a community partnership formed as part of a city-wide, data-driven inclusion strategy. The Rocket Community Fund, the Knight Foundation, and Connect Humanity provided funding for initial research, engineering, and network design. 

“We want every Detroiter to have affordable, reliable and abundant digital access that elevates local communities and accelerates opportunity,” said Edmonds. “Using public funds to invest in an open public infrastructure is something that will spur private investment and drive private competition.” 

How will Detroit’s fiber optic infrastructure work? Multiple providers will have access to the same fiber lines, fostering competition and lowering costs for customers. The city is studying different ways to minimize costs, as well as a sliding scale for residents with lower incomes. 

Open access operates like our airports and roads,” Edmonds explained. “The city provides the infrastructure and internet service providers can use the fiber lines the city installs to deliver service to residents.” 

It is estimated that a fiber optic system will last more than 50 years. As more internet speed is needed, cables will not need to be changed, making this an effective long-term solution. The goal is to eventually install fiber optic lines to homes and businesses across the entire city. 

 “It’s about making sure that every single person is empowered with the devices, with the internet connectivity and the digital literacy training that they deserve, and that they have a right to,” added Laura Granneman, Vice President, Rocket Community Fund.” 

 “There absolutely is a digital divide and gap in this city,” said Angela Calloway, Detroit City Councilwoman for District 2. “Your zip code should not matter whether or not you have access. I am so absolutely proud of the efforts that you are making.” 

Information and updates will be posted on the city’s Digital Inclusion & Equity page. 

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