Albany officials announced nearly half a million dollars in funding this morning to support digital literacy efforts and provide more young people with internet access.
Appearing at the Albany Housing Authority’s Capital South Campus Center, the officials announced funding that will support three Capital Region nonprofits in their efforts to bridge the so-called digital divide.
Funding of over $400,000 comes from the philanthropic organization Schmidt Futures and was awarded through the New York Digital Inclusion Fund.
The largest grant, $250,000, will go to CanCode Communities. Founded as Albany CanCode in 2016, the program provides young people – many of whom live in disadvantaged communities – with training in computer coding.
The grant money will be used to expand CanCode programs in the Mohawk Valley, Western New York and New York City.
Annmarie Lanesey, founder and CEO of CanCode Communities, says more than 400 people have completed the organization’s programs since 2016.
“And our model has changed during the pandemic. We are now a hybrid model, so both virtual and in-person, and we are excited to expand our programming here in the Capital Region and be able to provide these opportunities across the state where we see there are very few programs like ours. operate, and we are very excited to do so.
A $130,000 grant will go to the Friends and Foundation of Albany Public Library, where it will be used to expand a partnership that began in 2019 to provide internet to residents of the Albany Housing Authority.
Initially, the program provided Wi-Fi at four outdoor AHA locations. The expansion will provide access to 14 indoor and outdoor locations across 10 AHA campuses. As explained by Lex Bhagat, Executive Director of the Foundation, the partners want to ensure that the Internet remains accessible for years to come.
“The job of the library is to provide this Wi-Fi service. The job of the Foundation is to ensure that it continues until at least 2030. And so I’m going to talk to everyone in this room to make sure we have sustained support to continue for the long haul,” Bhagat said.
Sixty laptops will be donated to people in need on AHA campuses. Forty additional laptops will be available for use in community spaces. The Boys and Girls Club of the Capital Region, Excelsior College and Life Path will also provide educational opportunities for AHA residents.
Also announced Wednesday, $30,000 will be donated to the United Way to create an advisory group that will include local stakeholders to help find other ways to address digital gaps and inequalities in the region.
Peter Gannon is CEO of the United Way of the Greater Capital Region.
“It won’t come as a surprise to anyone in this room, but people living below the ALICE threshold are disproportionately affected by lack of internet access, lack of access to devices. And they’re already on the back burner. under normal circumstances, it’s exacerbated by what we’ve been dealing with for two and a half years now,” Gannon said.
ALICE by United Way stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.
The nonprofit says 40% of Albany County residents live below the cutoff.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said solving access issues is only part of the puzzle toward building a more digitally inclusive community.
“We need the kids living in this community, in this very neighborhood that we’re in right now, to see themselves as part of this incredible technical leap forward that we see every day.”