According to statistics distributed by the PEW Institute, access to computers and the Internet has greatly increased from 2000 to 2010. The utility of mobile Internet alone has increased by 13 percent from April 2009 to May 2010. As of 2010, 65 percent reported to have broadband connection and 59 percent were able to access wireless internet. Ownership of a laptop increased 26 percent from 2006 to 2012.
Although increases have been seen across the board, the digital divide still exists. The PEW Institute reported that one in three adults were left out of the broadband expansion from 2000 to 2010. KEYSPOT’s website, a computer service program funded by the Freedom Rings Partnership, states that as of 2011 a total of 41 percent of Philadelphians did not have access to a computer or the Internet.
KEYSPOT is a citywide collaboration of computer labs in Philadelphia. Partnership at CDC is one such organization that has seen the program grow in the past year of participation. The program offers free classes to community members to receive instruction in basic computer and Internet skills. The instruction includes skills like Microsoft Word training and email utilization. The wealth of knowledge goes beyond the basics to help students with financial budgeting online, resume construction and job searching. Class size allows direct coaching and encouragement from KEYSPOT instructors, regardless of previous knowledge or speed.
“Today you can pay things like your PECO bill online. Utilities like electricity or water have become more accessible online than anywhere else,” said Lorelei Shingledecker, program manager of the PEC Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. “Even banking has gone mostly paperless, which is an instance where residents can greatly benefit from access to internet banking and finance tools.”
Rather than being a luxury enjoyed by few, the Internet and computer access has become a necessity across the board. In an economic market where jobs are still relatively scarce, workforce development is being enriched by programs like KEYSPOT that equip students with skills and resources for finding and keeping a better job.
“People complain about what they don’t know, but here it is,” said Donna Parker, a KEYSPOT graduate. “Every little detail was covered, I didn’t expect that, not for free.”