Westchester, N.Y. – Assemblyman Steve Otis (AD 91-Rye), participated in two Westchester events promoting digital equity and literacy programs to celebrate National Digital Inclusion Week.
Digital inclusion programs are the model used in communities nationwide to address existing disparities in digital access because of cost, race, location and age.
In Yonkers, the Assemblyman joined the inaugural graduating class of the Digital Literacy Program for 914United’s Westchester Incarcerated & Justice Involved clients.In his remarks to the participants, Otis commented on the importance of these programs in providing meaningful access to the internet and its importance to education, health care and employment opportunities.
914United’s program was possible through a partnership with AT&T and The STEM Alliance to support this innovative technology and digital literacy education program. The program is part of The STEM Alliance’s Digital Equity Now initiative and AT&T’s commitment to working with organizations across the country to address the digital divide impacting underserved communities that have faced long-standing social inequities and higher unemployment.
Assemblyman Otis was joined by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Amy Kramer, President, AT&T New York; Margaret Käufer, President, The STEM Alliance; and Jonathan Alvarez, Co-Founder and Executive Director, 914United.
In a separate event, the Assemblyman was a panelist on a free webinar hosted by The STEM Alliance on the importance of local digital equity programs moderated by Meg Kaufer. The other panelists were Jordan Cormier from Youth Shelter of Westchester, Grace Battaglia of Open Door Family Medical Center and Dr. Fenix Arias of Yonkers Public Schools.
The panel stressed the various ways disadvantaged communities are affected by a lack of connectivity in a digital dependent world and the impact that having access to a suitable device and broadband improves outcomes for themselves and their families.Providing digital literacy along with devices and connectivity is vital as tech access and digital knowledge impact every aspect of daily life in today’s world, from education to healthcare to job seeking and workforce skills.The webinar appeared live on LMC Media and on The STEM Alliance Facebook page.
Assemblyman Otis’s proposal to create a new $15M statewide digital inclusion grant program was included in the 2021-2022 state budget. The program will support local libraries, non-profits and other institutions to close the digital divide. The Assemblyman is working with national advocates and with providers of these programs at the local level in New York State.