The City of Wichita's Housing & Community Services department and T-Mobile have partnered to help bridge the digital divide that exists in low-income communities. As part of the "Love Where You Live" campaign, a pilot program was created to distribute 50 Alcatel OneTouch Pop 7 tablets to residents in both Greenway and McLean Manor, both senior living public housing apartment high-rises. Tenants who participate in the Wichita Sedgwick County Community Action Partnership's job readiness training were given priority to receive a tablet; other tenants were selected in the order requested.
The OneTouch tablets connect to T-Mobile's 4G LTE network and have a monthly data plan with 2GB of High-Speed data and unlimited 2G/3G connectivity. Many of the recipients had never used a tablet before, so T-Mobile associates from the Wichita area volunteered to provide on-site training on how to use various apps and send emails. These tablets are preloaded with applications that afford residents the opportunity to stay connected by checking local news, their personal social media accounts and the weather. Additionally, applications such as Wichita.gov, Wichita Transit, and Indeed were included to facilitate job searches.
"Our residents are developing the life skills they need to become financially independent and take control of their health and well-being," said John E. Hall, director of Housing and Community Services and the Wichita Housing Authority.
Initiatives similar to this pilot program have seen successful in other agencies such as The Bronx Public Housing Authority and Miami-Dade Public Housing Authority. The City of Wichita has also seen success. Stephen Johnson received a tablet in February and has recently secured employment by applying for jobs with his device. He is now working two jobs he secured using his tablet.
"I have been learning more and more by using my tablet every day, and I feel that my computer skills have improved immensely," Johnson said.
T-Mobile is part of the nationwide ConnectHome program that brings together internet service providers, non-profits and the public and private sectors to offer high-speed Internet access, technical training, digital literacy programs and devices for residents in HUD-assisted housing. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocates dollars to Public Housing Agencies across the country for tenant participation. Tenant partition funds are designed to keep residents of Public Housing Agencies connected with local activities so that they can live well. The two-year pilot program is currently funded using $15,000 of tenant participation dollars.