Improving digital navigation in Westchester

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In March of this year, a very large study found that if you controlled for all other factors, socioeconomic background, race, and someone’s geography or place of residence, the highest predictor of death by Covid was whether or not the individual had an internet connection,” Margaret Käufer said at a small gathering in the conference room of the Open Door Family Medical Center in Port Chester on October 14.

Käufer, president of the STEM Alliance, reminded listeners that strong correlation is different from causation, but nonetheless stressed the importance of her organization’s collaboration with AT&T to launch the Digital Pathways program for Westchester. His organization is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing students, parents, and educators with the means to overcome systemic gaps in education.

Digital Pathways will provide multiple ways to support residents to help bridge disparities in many aspects of life that are compounded by a lack of affordable internet access. AT&T, a leading telecommunications service provider in the region, will provide $30,000 to support the STEM Alliance’s efforts to help residents access the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP).

The CPA offers eligible households a credit of up to $30 per month for mobile or Internet services. CPA-eligible households typically include recipients of Medicaid, SNAP, free/discounted lunches, or Pell Grants. However, the process of applying for these potentially changing credits can sometimes be difficult and confusing, especially for those who are not already familiar with the services the CPA seeks to provide – a concern shared by Andrea Ruggiero, Executive Vice President of Community Health for Open House Family Medical Centers.

“Over the past five years, wonderful technological opportunities have been presented to us,” Ruggiero said. “But what we realized very quickly was that so many of our patients were being left behind. They were still marginalized by the digital divide.

The Digital Pathways program aims to help bridge this gap in addition to helping those in need access ACP funds. It will also pair them with “digital navigators” who can perform the high-tech equivalent of the tasks of a social worker by reviewing a client’s situation, developing plans to help them, referring them to appropriate solutions and helping the organization as a whole to allocate resources effectively. . They will also be able to provide quick support to someone with only minor needs while also being able to help those with little or no technology experience.

Robin White, director of external affairs at AT&T, observed, “We understand that you may have a device and you may have connectivity, but you may not know how to use it, in which case it doesn’t matter if you have it. have. So ACP is great because it connects people and then you have the STEM Alliance which provides education so everyone in the household knows how to connect with job search, health care , school, whatever you need. “

The program is part of AT&T’s $2 billion commitment to improve access nationwide, and it’s one of many programs where the company has partnered with the STEM Alliance, including a previous digital literacy program and providing 300 free wireless hotspots in Westchester.

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