“So now, if I have my internet and my own laptop, I can do (homework) easily at home and stay with my kids,” Lon said.
Lon was joined by other public housing residents at the South Estes Community Connect Center on Friday to sign up for free digital literacy classes. The classes are offered by the Kramden Institute, a nonprofit organization that donates used and refurbished computers to those in need.
Anyone who completes the course will receive a free laptop. The classes will cover topics like computer basics and sharing safely on the internet.
In an announcement Friday, Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt talked about the importance of bridging the digital divide.
“The internet brings the world into your living room,” he said. “Bridging that divide means having to overcome barriers, and that’s one of the reasons it’s taken so long.”
Michael Abensour, executive director of the Kramden Institute said it is important to provide the skills to use computer technology.
“Just giving someone the tools without the training doesn’t amount to very much,” he said.
Robert Doreauk, regional director of external affairs for AT&T, said internet access is essential in job-hunting.
“In today’s world, we all know that internet access is no longer a luxury,” he said. “It is something that is needed for the success of every individual.”
Out of the 13 public housing communities in Chapel Hill, eight will be receiving free internet access.
The service will last five years, and Kleinschmidt said town officials are looking at ways to offer internet connection to more communities on a longer-term basis.
A survey conducted by the town among Chapel Hill public housing residents in 2014 found that around 25 percent of households with school-aged children lack internet access.
“In a community like ours, that celebrates our intellectual achievements, our commitment to education — well, that’s just outrageous,” Kleinschmidt said.
He said the new partnership does not accomplish all of the town’s goals.
“I’m not standing here with a banner behind me that says ‘mission accomplished,’” he said. “We will go further, because we need to do more.”