Helping residents overcome digital barriers

The Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD) is excited to be the new permanent home of the SF Digital Equity Initiative.
Photo of refurbished computer distribution event in the Western Addition

Started in 2017 by the City’s Committee on Information Technology, this citywide initiative is working to ensure all residents have the tools and ability to succeed in an increasingly digital world. Even in a city as technologically advanced as San Francisco, about 1 in 8 residents still lack high-speed home Internet and 1 in 7 lack basic digital literacy, with those who are low-income, limited English proficient, senior, or with a disability most at risk. 

To improve access to essential technology, SF Digital Equity is connecting residents at many affordable housing sites to free high-speed Internet provided through a partnership between the Department of Technology, MOHCD’s multifamily housing team, and local Internet service provider Monkeybrains. 

Loreal Brown, a resident at the Robert B. Pitts housing community, shared, “This service is good for my daughter because she’s hearing-impaired. She uses her video phone to communicate now that she’s connected through Wi-Fi. She wasn’t able to use it before because we didn’t have Wi-Fi.” 

The initiative has also organized the distribution of hundreds of refurbished computers to local community-based organizations (CBOs) and residents and families in need. 

A resident who received a refurbished computer at the Bayview Tech Fair expressed, “I stood in line early today to get a computer for my nephew. Every time he had to do his homework, he had to come over and use mine. Now thanks to his auntie, he can do his homework at home.”

To advance digital literacy, the initiative has published a Digital Equity Playbook and coordinated over 50 digital skill trainings since 2018, in partnership with the SF Public Library, Office of Economic and Workforce Development, affordable housing service providers, and dozens of CBOs. 

Recently, the initiative has funded a variety of new programs through its Digital Equity Grants, including new neighborhood training and tech support hubs, community digital media facilities, and an IT careers program training youth to refurbish computers and distribute them in digitally disadvantaged communities. Based on new research showing the heightened cybersecurity risks facing underserved populations, it is also ramping up its online safety programming with monthly community workshops to teach cybersecurity skills, working with Twitter to refine training materials. 

In coming months, we look forward to sharing more updates on new developments and opportunities as this initiative continues to grow.