University of Massachusetts–Lowell

Lowell Internet, Networking and Knowledge: Sustaining Broadband Access Across the Generations

The Lowell Internet, Networking and Knowledge project proposes to increase the adoption of broadband services by working with a diverse set of partners and using an inter-generational approach to bridging the digital divide. This initiative is designed to reach low-income and at-risk youth, the unemployed, residents without college degrees, and seniors. The project intends to build out 11 public computer centers to serve 6,650 new broadband users and add 7,500 additional broadband subscribers in the Lowell and Merrimack Valley, an area designated a “Renewal Community” by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The technology training includes working with University of Massachusetts–Lowell students in computer centers to provide broadband-related training to vulnerable populations, including the nation’s second largest Cambodian community. The University’s Center for Family, Work and Community plans to measure the project’s impact by developing a survey tool for use at each outreach event, allowing comparisons of broadband awareness at the beginning and end of the project. Also, the University intends to work with Lowell’s broadband providers to obtain data on new subscribers.

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BTOP In Action
Job seeker sits at a computer.

The University of Massachusetts – Lowell is boosting sustainable broadband adoption among low-income youth, the unemployed, adults without college degrees, and senior citizens leveraging an intergenerational approach and diverse set of nonprofit partners. Through the Lowell Internet, Networking and Knowledge: Sustaining Broadband Access Across the Generations project, UMass Lowell has 10 program sites and provided digital literacy and workforce development classes for more than 238,000 seniors, unemployed young adults, and at-risk teens. Participants have received more than 15,300 hours of training in basic computer skills, video game development and digital media editing, and Internet entrepreneurship.

For example, at the Amesbury, Lawrence, and Salisbury senior centers, the university conducts basic computer skills classes, teaching residents Internet fundamentals. At the United Teen Equality Center, young adult trainers provide video game development and digital media editing classes, preparing teenagers for possible careers in broadcasting or Internet entrepreneurship. In addition, UMass Lowell partners with Community Teamwork, Inc., a no-profit organization that is integrating digital literacy training into job readiness programs to help low-income individuals become self-sufficient. As of June 2013, the program has recorded 7,500 new broadband subscribers.

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