The Deuces Live, Inc has worked tirelessly in its revitalization efforts of The Deuces corridor to create a vibrant community that attracts businesses and consumers while preserving its history & heritage. One such initiative is Digital Inclusion.
Even before the pandemic, individuals and communities were becoming increasingly reliant on technology and Wi-Fi to accomplish daily tasks. Now, changes to school and work settings often require digital access – but we know that this access is not available to everyone.
A digitally inclusive city is one where all individuals have access to online resources, as well as the skills to use them meaningfully. Bringing digital equity to St. Pete is the Digital Inclusion Working Group’s main goal. The working group started when Alison Barlow of the Innovation District brought the topic to the table and is not led by a group of very active volunteers. We sat down with Veatrice Farrell, Executive of The Deuces Live, to learn more about the work that the Deuces and other organizations are doing in the space of digital inclusivity.
1. What made you decide to help the community in this way?
The Innovation District brought the Digital Inclusion program to the forefront which allowed what was already being done to be highlighted while supporting community alliances. When COVID hit St. Pete, everyone working in those alliances pivoted to focus on digital inclusion. There are over 50 people representing over 30 organizations who have come together on this project to move the needle. The Digital Inclusion initiative is just an extension of the work that the Deuces and many other organizations have done.
2. What ways can the community help you?
Like many working in this field, the number one ask is for support and patience. The working group is made up of volunteers who are all working towards the common goal, but schedules are tight, and they are constantly learning.
The Deuces and other partners are also looking for people who are interested in receiving training on technology, internet, and other facets of the digital necessities. They also coordinated the Gadgets for Good donations where the community can donate devices they no longer use.
3. What impacts have you seen on surrounding or similar businesses/nonprofits/individuals?
Well before COVID, the glaring inequities in digital inclusion were apparent but the shift to remote work and learning has put a spotlight on it. While many people have cellphones, it has become painfully obvious that those don’t cut it when it comes to completing work or school assignments. The lack of accessible Wi-Fi has also proven challenging as well with campuses and libraries closing due to the pandemic. To combat the Wi-Fi challenges, the Deuces has three open Wi-Fi spots where the public, on a limited capacity, can park and connect to the internet.
4. What positive ways have you seen the small business/nonprofit/general community come together?
Wi-Fi and technology are not a luxury, they are a necessity, and that notion has become more mainstream in light of the COVID pandemic. It has been amazing to see the way the community organizations have come together to move the needle on the digital inclusion initiative and the resiliency of the small business community in St. Pete. Many of the businesses on the Deuces corridor are open once again for in-person services.
If you’d like to support the efforts of the Digital Inclusion working group by participating in the training mentioned earlier, you can reach out to Veatrice Farrell at email@example.com or to Alison Barlow at firstname.lastname@example.org.