COVID-19 Resources: Digital Literacy During Social Distancing

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For those of us who have the means and skills to use technology at home, these tools have become one of our best defenses against loneliness and isolation during the Coronavirus Pandemic. The internet is the place where many of us get up-to-the-minute news and information, access resources that we need to live well, and to connect with family, friends, and colleagues.

If you or someone you care for does not know how to use technology, or does not have a computer, tablet, or smartphone and a broadband connection at home, times like this can be even more difficult. Usually, you can come to the library to get on a computer. With the libraries currently closed, it is more important than ever for people to be able to be connected at home or on a mobile device.

If you or someone you know is not able to connect to the internet, we’re here to help. Let’s start with ways to get access through a home internet connection or a mobile phone.

Resources for Accessing Internet

Home Internet

Internet service can be very expensive, and people living on a fixed income may not be able to afford the standard rates charged by service providers.

In Allegheny County, people who qualify are able to sign up for Comcast Internet Essentials. Internet Essentials offers a $9.95 a month home internet package to  people who qualify for public assistance programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, School Lunch, Housing Assistance, SSI, and more.

Other Internet Service Providers may also provide income-qualified programs. Contact your provider to see what is available.

Mobile Access

You do not need a home computer to access the internet. In fact, many people use a smartphone as their main or only way to connect.

Smartphones can be expensive, but, as with home internet, there are programs available for income-qualified people to get free or reduced-cost phones and phone plans.

You may have seen ads or heard about what people often refer to as “government phones.” By this, people are usually referring to the Lifeline Program, which offers eligible the chance to get discounted or free cell phone service, including a voice and data plan. According to the PA Public Utilities Commission, the following providers offer Lifeline service in Allegheny County:

Access Wireless

American Assistance

Armstrong Telephone

Assurance Wireless

Consolidated Communications

enTouch

Feel Safe Wireless

Full Service Network

Life Wireless

Limitless Wireless

Q-Link Wireless

Safelink Wireless

Safety Net Wireless

Stand Up Wireless

Tag Mobile

Talk America Services

TerraCom Wireless

T-Mobile

TruConnect

Verizon

Windstream

Remember to do your research on these providers and to read any agreement that you are asked to sign. If you have questions, always ask a trusted person for a second opinion. A librarian can help you find information about any company.

Digital Literacy Skills

Even if you have a computer, tablet or phone and can access the internet from home, you may still need some help learning how to use them, or use them well. Again, under normal circumstances, I would suggest coming in to the library for a class or 1-1 appointment. For now, though, let’s look at some options for building digital literacy skills from home.

First, even though we are closed, you can still ask a librarian for help:

  • Phone — We are unable to answer phone calls at this time, but call 412-622-3114 and leave a message and a librarian will call you back as soon as possible.
  • Email — Write us at info@carnegielibrary.org and a librarian will write back with help.
  • Chat — Go to www.carnegielibrary.org, and look for the chat window. Librarians are online during business hours.

There are also plenty of great websites to help you learn how to use technology. Here are some of my top picks from DigitalLearn, CLP’s online tutorials, and GCF Learn Free, a free set of online courses in a variety of topics:

I hope that these resources help. If you run into any trouble or have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at 412-622-3114 (leave a message) or info@carnegielibrary.org. We’re here to help!

Learn how the Library is building digital literacy

Creating Access and Building Digital Literacy Awareness