As technology advances, the issue of the “Digital Divide”—where access to the Internet and other computer-related services are limited—becomes even more pronounced.
Those in Ingleside and Excelsior who need and want the education to catch up with their tech-savvy peers will now have the opportunity to get assistance from the Digital Action Hub, a new resource opening in this October on a space in the heart of the Excelsior with the backing of City College of San Francisco, Coleman Advocates for Children and other organizations.
“It’s really a community space,” founder and coordinator Lena Carew said. “It is not so much about computers and space. It is really about a resource, a way for the community to connect, not just to technology but to one another.”
Carew and her associates are developing a co-working space geared toward the neighborhood’s particular needs. Carew, who sees herself as a technologist as well as an innovator-creator, is eager to invite innovators, who can envision the future and help to meet its demands.
“Our initial focus is students, schools and the youth,” Carew said. “Yet, I can see there is a need for the entire community” since many people have limited access to current technology.
The Digital Action Hub will “aim to provide learning opportunities in the areas of computer science, technology and innovation; to low-income and working class youth and students, parents and teachers, and local entrepreneurs,” according to its mission statement.
Digital Action Hub’s close ties to City College through the non-profit group Students Making A Change, which explains Carew’s chosen challenge: bringing the latest in technology and access of resources to a community facing obstacles.
“Bringing people together is perhaps most important because people and their skills are the real resources not just equipment, work or an office space,” Carew said. This piece is perhaps the most crucial to the success and longevity of any outreach.
This is why she seeks to include entrepreneurs in the process. Samantha Liapes, development director and communications coordinator for Coleman Advocates for Children, has no doubt that Carew will succeed.
“I’ve worked with Lena since 2010 when she was hired (while still a student) as the first coordinator of the newly formed Students Making a Change program at City College of San Francisco,” Liapes said. “I think the Digital Action Hub is an innovative concept that fills a clear need in the Excelsior/ Ingleside District. The Excelsior is one of the few remaining neighborhoods in San Francisco with a large percentage of working class immigrants and families of color.”
District 11 has had the least historical investment from the City for workforce development resources and programs. “We are excited for Coleman’s student and parent members to have access to such a cutting edge resource,” Liapes said. “We look forward to our members utilizing the resource Lena has championed to develop skills and knowledge that will help them achieve their educational and professional goals.”
Dr. Faye McPhail Naples, Carew’s mentor, serves as the vice chancellor of innovation and engagement at City College of San Francisco. “Lena is profoundly dedicated in the work she does, especially when it has to do with community and educational projects like Digital Action Hub,” Naples said. “Lena has invested a lot of her own time and resources apart from her regular job. For as long as I have known Lena she is the type of person who will work two and three jobs or work and go to school at the same time, just to achieve a goal she believes in.”
Carew is working to obtain non-profit status for Digital Action Hub, something that is not always that easy to do. “What the project really needs are some angel investors,” Naples said. “And, I think that is very possible given the fact that the tech industry pioneers are here in the San Francisco area and are thriving.”
To ramps up the project, Carew will attract CCSF students in community activities and
to encourage opportunities for service as well as jobs.
“The fact that the project is being developed by young people who have livedin and gone to school in the neighborhood makes the program even more exciting,” Liapes said. “The young people are directly affected by the problems in our community and they should be the ones empowered to create the solutions.”
For more information about Digital Action Hub, visit www.facebook.com/DigitalActionHub.