For people over 65 in the U.S., 31% do not have a computer or do not have access to the internet. In low-income households where the earnings are no more than $20,000 per year, only 41% of adults have access to high-quality internet—compared to 80% in households with a median household income of $60,293. There is a huge gap in digital literacy skills and a dire need for educational organizations to step in and provide access and education to the internet. Ashbury Senior Computer Community Center (ASC³) in Cleveland, OH has done just that.
“The gaps in internet access are detrimental to our country and the rapid changes in technology cause the gaps to continue growing. We need digital equity now,” Wanda Davis, Executive Director of ASC³.
ASC³ is a non-profit organization that empowers Cleveland residents through free and low-cost training in technology. Its mission is clear: bridge the digital divide in Cleveland’s inner-city communities by educating adults with limited experience and resources.
Every generation of Clevelander receives education at ASC³. Younger adults are provided technology training to acquire the vital skills they need to enter the workforce and conduct daily tasks like paying bills online. But ASC³ specializes in serving the most vulnerable age
groups—mature adults 45-65 and senior citizens above 65 years old. As one of the only providers of its kind in Cleveland, ASC³ primarily empowers older adults to confidently navigate the digital world.
While the ASC³ team only has two full-time instructors, that doesn’t stop the organization from reaching hundreds of Clevelanders year over year. With three satellite offices and strong partnerships with companies like Mobile Citizen to provide fast, low-cost internet service, ASC³ is making a difference in closing the digital divide.
“Everything we do in this world has moved online and we need to prepare all adults, and especially seniors, for that reality,” said Wanda. “The benefits of Medicare and Medicaid cannot be fully accessed without an internet connection. Requesting free and reduced-cost transportation for seniors requires the internet. Also, most banking is done online and seniors without the knowledge do not know how to take advantage of critical banking fee savings and bonuses that are only provided to online bank account holders.
”“Digitalization has now proceeded to the point that broad exposure to basic entry-level software applications is essential for everyone,” added Wanda.
ASC³ students learn how create Microsoft Office documents and conduct tasks like saving files and cutting and pasting. Along with becoming proficient in Office software, students learn how to fill out online applications, access medical test results, surf the web, make doctors’ appointments, order tickets, and send emails. And that’s just in the first eight weeks of training.
“They complete their first eight weeks and start to develop new skills, which increases their confidence and then their desire to learn more. So many students want to continue developing through Ashbury’s advanced classes,” said Wanda.
For students like Mary Seawright who has studied ASC³ for more than a year, this couldn’t be truer. Mary has mastered the art of emails and even learned to file eviction notices online.
“This has been one of the best decisions I have made for myself. The knowledge I have acquired has helped me in my business as a property manager.” said Mary. “I can be more successful in my job because of what I’ve learned at ASC³ .
Students like Mary take also their new skills home thanks to ASC³’s partnership with Mobile Citizen. Students can purchase their own discounted hotspot and low-cost internet service powered by Sprint. Mobile Citizen ensures ASC³ students receive high-speed 4G LTE service, with unthrottled access to the internet.
With accessible prices, students have the opportunity to be online at home to conduct the business of their life and connect with family and friends.
“We love our partnership with Mobile Citizen because a lot of our constituents can’t afford the high-cost that comes with high-quality internet service. They purchase the devices and service from us, but Mobile Citizen is the vendor behind it that allows us to provide equal access to the internet into low-income households in Cleveland,” said Wanda.
“ASC³ is a pioneer in how to close the digital divide and better serve its constituents with online skills they can take out of the classroom,” said Cassie Bair, Chief Business Development Executive for Mobile Citizen. “We are proud to be their partner in empowering the people throughout the greater Cleveland area to have greater access to high-quality internet service and we’re excited to see how ASC³ will broaden its impact in the future.”
“We’re moving as fast as the internet,” says Wanda. “We’re trying to make sure that we’re in every location where people need access and education to the World Wide Web.”