SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — A San Francisco nonprofit focused on providing digital literacy to older adults launched a new initiative to bring internet, technology and training into the homes of seniors who need it the most.

Community Tech Network launched its new program called Home Connect — an initiative to provide free tablets, three months of internet and virtual training in eight different languages to older vulnerable adults in San Francisco who live alone.

With over 15 years of experience working in the public sector executive director and co-founder Kami Griffiths and her staff created the Home Connect program in just a few weeks to provide digital literacy.

“Once our partners, mostly senior centers and housing developments closed due to COVID-19 it was clear we needed to do something to help seniors get connected at home,” Griffiths said.

“I sent my initial idea pitch to the SF Department of Disability and Aging Services to get their approval in mid-March and by the beginning of April we were taking referrals from our partners.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and shelter-in-place orders isolated seniors may no longer have access to supportive social services providing meals, transportation and companionship.

Home Connect staff and volunteers remotely train seniors through pre-configured devices to be able to teach them how to access their doctor, learn how to pay bills and how to connect with family and friends while remaining isolated.

Co-founder Kami Griffiths

Community Tech Network is currently working with local partners to gather data on the connectivity needs of the seniors they plan to serve.

The nonprofit will help address each senior’s needs by providing support in applying for internet access, configuring a tablet, shipping technology to each senior’s home with instructions to be able to call staff members to learn the basics of using the device.

“I still feel a huge sense of urgency to get devices, internet and digital skills training to every homebound senior who wants it. Especially now when the only way many things are done happen online,” Griffiths said.

As for Griffith after years of experiencing and witnessing firsthand how the digital divide and low literacy levels added to the cycle of poverty — she co-founded Community Tech Network in 2008.

Before the pandemic, the nonprofit provided digital literacy to senior centers, libraries and labs to train those most at risk, seniors and the underserved population.

“The seniors we’re serving are so happy to have a way to see their family and talk to their doctor. We’re grateful to have this opportunity to help at a time when it’s so critical to be online,” Griffiths said.

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