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Pioneering Santa Monica Digital Program Wins Nationwide Recognition
By Jorge Casuso
July 19, 2018 -- A pioneering City program that provides high speed internet and IT training to Santa Monica's affordable housing residents has been recognized as one of the most innovative public sector programs in the nation.
Launched in 2015 with $175,000 in City funding, the Digital Inclusion Program was chosen as one of the Top 25 Programs in American Government by Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
The pilot program -- which initially connected ten affordable housing buildings -- delivers free Gigabit broadband to the buildings' community rooms and to individual units for $48 per month, and offers free onsite workshops, officials said.
The City is expanding the program with $1.85 million in Community Development Block Grant funding to more than 900 low-income housing families in 29 building across Santa Monica, City officials said.
“Our community’s experience is shattering the antiquated notion of broadband, technology and tech education as a luxury,” Gary Carter, the City’s Community Broadband Manager, said in a statement.
“Residents are providing indisputable evidence of an ability and willingness to participate in civic innovation. Taking care of our most vulnerable first, sets a higher bar and we accept the challenge.”
One affordable housing resident said the program opened new career opportunities after working minimum-wage jobs.
"I always wanted to become a programmer and creative artist," said Antonio Rodriguez. "To be able to learn programming and visual design from the brightest minds in the field, and get fiber-optic internet has given me the edge to compete.
"Living in Santa Monica is probably, I think, the only reason why I was able to actually become who I wanted,” Rodriguez said.
Community Corporation of Santa Monica, which manages most of the city's affordable housing developments, worked in partnership with the City.
The agency's executive director, Tara Barauskas, said the program "offers our youth the ability to keep up with their peers, helps families search for jobs, improves household budgets with affordable access, and provides vital technology training."
Santa Monica affordable housing residents interested in joining the Digital Inclusion Pilot can sign up here.
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