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Senior Computer Classes

DC Public Library
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Innovation Leader: George Williams, Media Relations Manager, george.williams2@dc.gov

Problem Statement

According to the National Telecommunications Information Administration, only 35% of Americans over the age of 65 use broadband Internet. To increase Internet usage among older Americans, the FCC’s National Broadband Plan recommends creating partnerships to provide focused, hands-on training that emphasizes the Internet's immediate, practical benefits for older Americans.

Innovation

Three months before the National Broadband Plan’s debut, the DC Public Library teamed up with the D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer, Byte Back, a nonprofit that provides computers, First Time Computers, an organization that trains at-risk youth to refurbish computers, One Economy and Cricket Communications to offer free computer classes for adults age 55 and older at two Library locations, Woodridge and Francis A. Gregory. The first module introduced participants to the basics of computers like creating and saving documents, accessing the Internet and setting up e-mail. The second module covered more advanced topics like, downloading from the Internet, file management, accessing financial and health care services, and Internet safety. To help seniors become comfortable surfing the web, a website featuring content that would interest them was created. At the end of the program, participants received a free refurbished computer with the Microsoft Office Suite. In addition, low-income participants received a free mobile Broadband modem and two years of free Broadband access. The program was funded by the Holden Bequest, a gift given to the DC Public Library to benefit the Woodridge and Francis A. Gregory neighborhood libraries.

Progress

More than 400 seniors learned how to use the computer and the Internet through the Library’s program. These are some of the feedback the Library received. "I plan to teach my granddaughters ages 6 and 4 years,” wrote one participant. Another wrote “I am 62 years old with a 9th grade education. This is a lifetime opportunity. Using this program as a framework, the Library applied for and received a $1.5 million Broadband Technology Opportunities Program stimulus grant to offer free computer classes to 1,600 District residents at seven neighborhood libraries.