Temple Digital Equity Center offers tech hub for North Philly residents

It will serve as a community computer lab of sorts for those living near the campus

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Temple University has unveiled its new Digital Equity Center to provide computers and technology services to many of its North Philadelphia neighbors.

“I’m new and I want to find out what’s going on in the neighborhood,” said North Philly resident Tiffany Donovan. Her family could get help from the new center at the Owl Hub just on the edge of the university’s campus, near the corner of North 11th and West Berks streets.

“I’ve got a grandmother. She does technology. It’s stuff they can help you with," Donovan added.

The center will act as a community computer lab of sorts. It will offer North Philadelphia residents access to technology in their homes, with desk support. It will also provide digital navigation and digital literacy education through strategic community partners.

“The idea is for those partners to refer people to us and get those resources back out. We built out a model where we can look at digital equity and figure out how we provide digital inclusion,” said Jonathan Latko, the executive director of business services for Temple’s Information Technology Services department.

“We have devices. We got them through the university. We can refurbish them. We hired one of my student employees full-time to refurbish the computers. Then we [realized] we can teach people to do it through some of our classes. We teach them how to use it. We needed internet connections, so we talked to Comcast … we figured out how to get internet connection for them.”

The next piece involved tech support. Dell just awarded the program grant funding to hire a digital navigator for the community equipment.

The goal of the center is to get 600 computers into homes over the next year and build a network of support for those devices.

“600 machines, as if it is a computer lab, and be able to support those machines technically and the people who use them, so they can now access all of the resources that are available,” Latko added.

“They can now access all of the resources that are available. It could be Temple resources for classes. It could be health information management, teaching how to do digital literacy or financial literacy, or health. We have all of these partners to do all sorts of support work, but they need this platform of digital equity in order to do it, so we are trying to plug in and give that support.“

“It’s really a wonderful program that they are having especially since when COVID hit, we found that a lot of people not only didn’t have computers,” said Donna Richardson, a North Philadelphia neighborhood advocate, “but they couldn’t afford the internet and if they had it, some of them didn’t know how to use it.”

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