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Episode #2: Digital Equity: Connecting Residents to Access, Skills and Training

Feb 20, 2023















Eligible Clayton County residents can save money on their cell phone or home internet service while federal Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) funds are available. Qualified households can apply and receive a $30 per month discount for home internet service or cell phone service and a one-time $100 discount on the purchase of a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet. Plus, learn how to use a computer and enhance your skills today.

Transcript: Speaker 1 00:00:12 You’re tuned in to the Clayton Connected Podcast in Clayton County, where the world lands and opportunities take off. Hello, I’m your host is Valerie Fuller, communications Administrator for the Clayton County Board of Commissioner’s Office of Communications. And I am super excited to have two special guests in the studio. Today, part of our Office of Digital Equity, we have Ms. Takiyah Thomas, who is our Digital equity Administrator. Welcome. Speaker 2 00:00:45 Thank Speaker 1 00:00:46 You. And we also have, uh, Ms. Kristen Hunt, who is our digital equity associate. Speaker 3 00:00:54 Thank you for Speaker 1 00:00:54 Having us . So when we talk about digital equity, a lot of people may not know what that means, but tell us about the new office, if you will, Ms. Uh, Takiyah. Talk to us about the digital equity office and what that means for our citizens. Speaker 2 00:01:13 So the Digital Equity Office is an office that was formed last year. It was approved by the Board of Commissioners, and we began functioning as an office on July 1st, 2022. And the purpose of the office, um, short answer is to bridge the digital divide, be between the citizens in Clayton County, which would mean giving them access to reliable high-speed internet, um, and affordable high-speed internet. Mm-hmm. , uh, access to digital skills and access to devices. Speaker 1 00:01:45 Absolutely wonderful. So we got access to the internet, access to devices and access to skills, training skills, right? Mm-hmm. . So, um, tell us about the digital equity office and what is currently being offered for our citizens, which I think is really important. They, you, you’re not gonna wanna miss this part . Speaker 3 00:02:07 So, for our Clayton County residents, we have the Affordable Connectivity Program, um, which is ACP in short, and that is a federally funded program that offers a $30 discount on your monthly internet or cell phone bill, and also a hundred dollars one time discount on a device. So that is supposed to bring everyone up to speed with kind of affordable, um, high speed internet. Speaker 1 00:02:29 Mm-hmm. . And this $30 off, is it a one-time, um, discount or is it a continuous discount? Speaker 3 00:02:37 The $30 off is continuous, which is really good and gonna be beneficial for people to actually afford the service. Um, one thing that we learned with doing our research and founding this office is a lot of people have service but they can’t afford it. Or they wanna maybe have a higher speed with a more affordable option. And how are they gonna be able to do that? Mm-hmm. , a lot of our households have two to three devices that buffer sometimes when they’re trying to stream or do different things. Um, especially in the pandemic. We talked to the Clayton County public school system and they had to issue wifi devices for wifi and kids to get their schoolwork done. So it’s a deficit that we’re trying to correct. Speaker 1 00:03:19 And we talk about the speed. Tell us how important that speed is in reference to, cause I know everybody, uh, is trying to stream me either on their phones, you know, but when they’re at home and that does affect the kids trying to do their homework, it can effect even the everyday person that’s just trying to find out information through Google or even through a job search. How important is the speed? Speaker 2 00:03:39 Well, I’d say, um, like Kristen mentioned, you, when you have children in the home, they’re doing schoolwork. Parents might be teleworking. Um, uh, there’s different different things going on in the house that’s accessing your internet. Your ring doorbell is connected. If you have a smart home, your lights turn on and off with, with your wifi mm-hmm. . So when you put all of that together, you got a lot of hits going into your wifi signal. So a lot of people in Clayton County have a very low speed of 25 megabits per second, and that would cause them to buffer like Kristen mentioned. So it’s very important that we get everyone up to a higher internet speed. Speaker 1 00:04:20 Absolutely. So, um, we have approximately 300,000 residents here in Clayton County. What percentage, if you will, of our citizens do we know are not connected? Speaker 3 00:04:33 Yes. So through our census data, we learn that about 20% do not have wifi or do not have high speed Speaker 1 00:04:40 Internet about, and that’s due Speaker 3 00:04:41 To really affordability mainly. Speaker 1 00:04:43 And that’s about what, 60,000 of our residents? Yes. Yeah. Speaker 2 00:04:46 Around Speaker 1 00:04:46 60,000. Yeah. So we’re trying to change that. The Office of Digital Equity, uh, and the Clayton County Board of Commissioners are definitely committed to, um, you know, bridging that gap. So $30 off per month while supplies slash Right. Yeah. While the funds last. Yes. Right. Uh, and these are federal funds mm-hmm. ? Yes. And, uh, the a hundred dollars, the one time hundred dollars use for, uh, a device like a laptop? Yes. Computer or, um, tablet. Desktop or tablet. Okay. Speaker 3 00:05:13 Yes. Speaker 2 00:05:13 Right. Yes. And, and it has to be with the same provider. Speaker 1 00:05:16 Yes. Very important note. Um, the provider has to be the same meaning. Speaker 2 00:05:22 So if I have at and t for my home internet mm-hmm. and I get $30 off per month because I qualify for the program and at and t sell laptops, I can use the a hundred dollars one time hundred dollars discount to buy a laptop with at and t. Speaker 1 00:05:37 Wonderful. So that’s not all that the Office of Digital Equity is offering our citizens. What else, uh, do you guys offer? You mentioned, um, there was a, like a three-pronged approach to it. You know, access to the internet was just one of them. Mm-hmm. , what else do the citizens have available to them? I’m Speaker 3 00:05:55 Sorry. We also offer, um, computer training classes. Right now we are offering navigating your pc that’s kind of on the basics of your computer and how to navigate that. And we also offer protecting your pc, and that’s kind of like cybersecurity, um, identity theft, just things to watch out for phishing emails, spams, things of that nature. Very educational. Speaker 2 00:06:16 And we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback, especially from our seniors. They’re like our most vulnerable population and they love the classes. Speaker 1 00:06:24 Absolutely. Speaker 2 00:06:25 We want them to learn more about the locations where we’re doing these classes so we can get more participation in, especially in the protecting your pc. Yes. Speaker 1 00:06:35 So, uh, our seniors, speaking of our seniors, um, our seniors, as you say, are a vulnerable population. Um, we encourage, um, not just the seniors, but our young adults too, right? Mm-hmm. , it’s not just geared towards seniors. It’s really important that we share that. We know we have absolutely wonderful seniors, but this is for the training and the skillset and the, and the offerings that you have through the digital, uh, office of Digital Equity is for all citizens of all ages, right? Speaker 3 00:07:01 Yes. Yes. We welcome everyone. Speaker 1 00:07:04 So what about your partners? Who are you partnering with in this and collaborating with? Speaker 2 00:07:07 Well, I’m glad you asked Valerie . So we do have, uh, two current partnerships. One with Georgia Tech. Um, Georgia Tech is gonna come out in train us on how to teach the children how to code using music to make music with coding. Yes. And it’s gonna just expose them to something that they may not have been exposed to. They may not even know that they can have a career path in coding. Mm-hmm. . So this is gonna be a fun way to introduce that to them. And then we also have a partnership with Clayton State, uh, if you wanna speak on that, Kristen? Speaker 3 00:07:40 Yes. A little bit with, uh, cyber Cybersecurity is our partnership with Clayton State. That’s all I Speaker 2 00:07:47 Know. Yeah. So it is, um, . So with that partnership, um, young, young adults and teenagers, like high school age and young adults up to 24 years old, will be able to go through a certificate program. And when they finish with the either cybersecurity or coding camp, they’ll leave with a certificate in hand that they can take to an employer and say, I did this program with Clayton State and that’s gonna help on the workforce development side. Speaker 1 00:08:14 You guys make me wanna go back to college again. absolutely exciting, but again, it’s something for everyone. Every child, no, every, um, adult in Clayton County, these are wonderful programs and services that are offered that, um, people typically don’t know about. And that’s why we’re doing the podcast. Right, right. Uh, we want to keep you engaged. Uh, the Office of Digital Equity, as well as the Clayton County Board of Commissioners is definitely committed, as I said before, to, uh, bridging that digital divide. Um, so we’re excited, um, to have, uh, Ms. TK and Ms. Kristen here to share all of this information with us. Talk to us about some of the classes that you, um, have. Um, talk to me about some of the classes that you guys have, um, taught, uh, or trained in so far. How is it going Speaker 3 00:09:03 So far? It’s been really good. Like TA said, the responses that we have have been really helpful. Um, a lot of our older community or seniors who attend the classes, it’s just a lot of stuff they didn’t know or they weren’t exposed to. And technology is just moving so fast for them in that sense in which they have expressed and they’re just like, this is good information for someone to sit us down, explain it to us, walk it through, and they just kind of get it more on a deeper level, more so of what to look out for. Right. Especially with facing, um, identity theft and things of that nature. Speaker 2 00:09:34 And and they just wanna keep up. Yes. They, they wanna be independent. Right. They wanna know how to use their phone. Yeah. They wanna know how to use their iPad. They don’t wanna call their children every time, you know, it locks up. Speaker 3 00:09:45 Yeah. Speaker 2 00:09:45 So it’s like a independent thing. Um, which, which they’re, you know, they, they have a right to, to feel that way. Right. Um, so it’s always a pleasure to work with them cuz we leave learning something. Cuz you know, when you work with the seniors Oh Speaker 1 00:10:00 Absolutely. Speaker 2 00:10:00 Oh, you gonna learn something Oh, where Speaker 1 00:10:01 You leave. Absolutely. The seniors in Clayton County are the absolute best. Mm-hmm. absolute best. Um, so, and, and they can engage. They enjoy engaging and learning, um, with their children. Mm-hmm. , uh, who may be young adults or, or older adults also as well as their grandchildren. So it’s a way that they can connect with them also. Mm-hmm. . Um, so the other thing I wanted to ask is how do people sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program? Speaker 2 00:10:29 Okay. So, um, like Kristen mentioned, it is a federal program. So that’s where everybody mm-hmm. , not just Clayton County. Um, on our website there’s a link for a national verifier and that’s what we use to help people to sit down and fill out the application. So if, if anyone listening would like to apply and they’re not at one of our events, they can go to our website, digital equity dot clayton county, um, and scroll down to the national verifier link and they can fill out the application there. Speaker 1 00:11:00 So, um, not everyone will qualify. Right. That applies. Right. Um, that’s very important. There are some criteria that you have to meet. What is some of the criteria, um, that we know that those who qualify with meet, Speaker 3 00:11:14 Um, those that qualify would have to be in a government assistance program. Kind of like snap, wic, um, social Security, um, the current award year of the Pell Grant. So this also is really good for college students. Um, and also maybe 200% below the poverty income level. And we also have that chart available on our website that Takiyah mentioned. So all of the requirements there. Speaker 1 00:11:38 So access to internet, access to devices, and access to skills training. Absolutely wonderful. This is our Office of Digital Equity, um, offering so many different services and programs, uh, for our Clayton County citizens who are eligible. Again, that website is digital equity Speaker 2 00:11:56 Dot clayton county Speaker 1 00:12:08 So share with me, if you will, some of the upcoming events, um, that our citizens can take advantage of. Speaker 2 00:12:14 Upcoming. We have, um, training the Navigating your PC and protecting your pc. Uh, we’re gonna work with, uh, gene Care Medical facility to sign up their residents for the, not residents, I’m sorry, patients for the ACP program. Um, what other Speaker 3 00:12:32 Institute? We are also working with the Jonesboro Housing Authority to sign up, um, the Section eight vouchers, cuz that’s also a requirement for the ACP program. So that’s gonna be amazing. That happens in a week. We’ve also been working with Inspire edu to do computer workshops where people actually get devices and get to take home a laptop after doing a little computer class. So. Right. We are really excited to partner with them. We had our first event with them last Saturday. Yeah. And we’re gonna be doing more, so. Yay. Speaker 2 00:13:02 That’s exciting. Speaker 1 00:13:03 So let me tell you how upset that I am that I don’t qualify number one. And second of all to just say that this is huge. Like that’s a big deal. People, did you hear that? Not only do you get the training mm-hmm. Right. You also get the laptop. Yes. Speaker 2 00:13:20 Right. Speaker 3 00:13:21 And shout out to Anisha Freeman for connecting us with them. She’s with GTA Mm-hmm. , she’s our friend in the GTA office. Yeah. Also working in digital equity for the state and she connected us with Inspire d Speaker 1 00:13:31 Mm-hmm. . Absolutely. Wonderful. Speaker 2 00:13:33 Great connection. And what I really like about, uh, what they’re doing, they’re based in Atlanta actually. They’re gonna come and do an event with us here in Clayton County to provide, uh, devices to Clayton County residents. Yeah. But they also, the, the laptops are refurbished, which is fine cause a good technician looks at it, cleans it up. They come with Microsoft office so you don’t have to go buy the license and they provide one year of technical support. So you can’t beat that. Speaker 1 00:13:58 Absolutely. Wonderful. So many great things being offered right here in what? Trailblazing Clayton County, Georgia. Speaker 2 00:14:05 Mm-hmm. . Let’s talk about those trailblazing. Speaker 1 00:14:07 Let’s talk about it. Speaker 2 00:14:08 . So look, , , so digital equity is not a new thing, right? It’s been happening. Mm-hmm. , even our library system has been an Amma doing, been doing an amazing job. Mm-hmm. before it was even called digital equity. Mm-hmm. , they’ve been giving out hotspots and um, I dunno if it’s been tablets or laptops, but they like rented out. Right. Right. So our library, um, system has been doing a good job on the digital equity before it even became a thing. Yes. Right. So, um, the trail base blazing, that’s what I was gonna say. In the state of Georgia mm-hmm. , there are some activities going on, but Clayton County is doing it big and kind of doing it first. So we are super proud of that. And we wanna brag a little bit. Not too much cuz you wanna toot your horn too loud. But, but we, we, we are kind of trailblazers in this thing called digital equity. So we need the support of our community cuz we, our office literally was formed to bring you all access to affordable, reliable internet, bring you devices and get you up to skill so you can survive in the digital world. Speaker 1 00:15:17 Absolutely. Again, that’s digital equity dot clayton county Thank you Ms. Takiyah. And thank you Ms. Kristen from the Office of Digital Equity and Clayton County. I’m your host, is Valerie Fuller, communication Administrator. Join us next time on the Clayton Connected Podcast. Speaker 2 00:15:33 Thank you for having us. Yes. Thank you, . Speaker 1 00:15:38 I’m your hostess, Valerie Fuller. Thank you for listening to the Clayton Connected Podcast in Clayton County, Georgia, where the world lands and opportunities take off.