Freedom Rings Partnership Helps to Close Digital Divide
The Freedom Rings Partnership  officially kicked off on January 17th, by sponsoring the signature project of the Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service  – volunteers refurbished used computers to be distributed to the community, assembled digital literacy kits, and participated in a high-tech scavenger hunt called “Race to Connect.” Tom Power, NTIA Chief of Staff, joined Sharmain Matlock-Turner, President and CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition  (UAC); John Fry, President of Drexel University ; and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter for this exciting event hosted at Girard College.
The Freedom Rings Partnership , led by UAC and the City of Philadelphia, with Drexel University as a major partner, is made up of grassroots organizations, government, and universities that are working to bring Internet access, jobs-training, and technology to Philadelphia residents in low-income communities. This initiative is a synergy between two BTOP Round 2 grants: UAC’s $11.8 million Sustainable Broadband Adoption project and the City of Philadelphia’s $6.4 million Public Computer Center project. Together, these two initiatives are known as the Freedom Rings Partnership , bringing over $25 million in federal and matching dollars to bridge the digital divide in Philadelphia.
NTIA Chief of Staff Tom Power refurbishes a computer for the Freedom Rings project with the help of Philadelphia youths
The Freedom Rings Partnership will reach over 100,000 Philadelphians with information about the importance of broadband to their daily lives; provide hands-on training to 15,000 people at over 130 locations citywide, including 77 public computer centers as known as “Freedom Rings Computer Centers;” and distribute 5,000 netbooks to public housing residents who complete technology skills training. Freedom Rings Computer Centers will be located across Philadelphia, primarily in north, south and west Philadelphia. Locations will include a variety of recreation centers, health and social service organizations, workforce development agencies, and nonprofits. In addition, four mobile computer labs will travel throughout the city to provide training and Internet access to underserved communities.
“BTOP projects, like the Freedom Rings Partnership we are celebrating today, will create jobs and lay the groundwork for sustainable economic growth," said NTIA Chief of Staff Tom Power. “NTIA is proud of the benefits of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program  - which is helping to increase broadband access and adoption in communities in need across the country.”
“The goal of the Freedom Rings Partnership  is to help eliminate the digital divide by enhancing and expanding underserved communities’ knowledge of and access to the Internet so they can acquire information about employment, education, health, and community and economic development, said Matlock-Turner, UAC’s President and CEO. “This project will open doors, enhance lives and create access and job opportunities through technology.”
Tom Power speaks at the MLK Day of Service joined by John Fry, President of Drexel University, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and Sharmain Matlock-Turner, President and CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition.
"The world is limitless when you have access, and that's what this is really all about,” said Mayor Nutter, reminding the volunteers. “This is what freedom is all about.”
“Drexel University is excited to work with the Urban Affairs Coalition and the City to expand access to computer training and technology across Philadelphia,” said Drexel University President John A. Fry. “We are proud to begin our efforts in honor of Dr. King, on the 25th anniversary of this special holiday. Freedom grows as more people are able to learn and communicate using today’s newest technologies.”
Arun Prabhakaran is the Manager of Government and Strategic Partnerships and Mary-Anne Smith Harris, is the Manager of Marketing & Communications at the Urban Affairs Coalition