CLEVELAND — Hopping on your computer to check email or schedule an appointment isn't something many of us think about anymore. But for many people, it's still a struggle.
In the fall of 2020, Cleveland was named the worst connected big city in the nation. According to Policy Bridge report, 31% of households lacked internet access of any kind. And it's not just connectivity, a lack of digital literacy is also prevalent.
Now, the Cuyahoga County Public Library is working to fix these issues under a new service called Digital Navigators. It's one-on-one assistance to help people connect to the internet, get a device, set up a telehealth appointment and more.
"To help them develop digital literacy skills from as simple as using a mouse to setting up a telehealth medical appointment," said Aimee Lurie, CCPL's information and technology literacy manager.
Lurie said the program is all possible thanks to a $187,000 grant from the Cleveland Foundation. The money funding three digital navigator salaries and benefits for two years.
Since its launch in November, the free service has already assisted about 70 people, including Sagamore Hills resident Michael Seink.
"It's been nothing but a gratifying experience," said Seink. "It was nice to have someone sit down with me one on one and speak with them and have them walk me through things."
Seink said when the pandemic hit, he knew he had to get online.
"Things went more to virtual visits and... I realized this pandemic is changing things exponentially to the point where there is no more buffer zone for people like me who aren't on the computer" he said. "It's 2022 ... get caught up or left behind."
Seink said he's come a long way. He was able to obtain his own laptop via PCs for People, a nonprofit organization centered on getting low-cost computers and affordable broadband internet into the homes of individuals.
And now, Seink said, he looks forward to getting online.
"Now it's becoming an adventure and it's opening a whole new world for me," he said. "I'm grateful. So grateful. I've come 100 miles from where I was just a couple months ago."
Lurie said a goal of the program is to close the digital divide.
"Having access to the internet and reliable broadband isn't a luxury anymore, it is critical to be an active member in society," Laurie said.
To sign up for an appointment, call 216.749.9420 or click here for more information.