In some of Trenton’s low-income neighborhoods, as few as 20 percent of the homes have reliable Internet access. With limited access, but expanding with mobile smartphone usage, Trenton’s youth and adults may be unable to access information for personal enrichment, education, and skill building. A lack of basic Internet access, or basic internet skills, prevents young people and adult job seekers alike from accessing training and job opportunities. Further, residents without access to the Internet also lack access to information and tools available globally.
Without computer literacy skills – and regular access to the Internet – young adults are unlikely to be familiar enough with computers to compete for IT jobs. According to organizations such as Code.org, a national advocate for computer science to be added to school curricula, there is a mismatch between the high number of computer science-related jobs available and the comparatively fewer schools that teach computer science at an early age. Improving Internet literacy and providing access to low-cost and easy-to-use hardware can bridge this digital divide in Trenton’s low-income communities and improve the City’s competitive advantage in an increasingly technology-driven economy.
The City should explore creating free public access points to the Internet for Trenton’s residents, beginning at publicly accessible locations such as libraries, then potentially expanding and leveraging a structure similar to LinkNYC. This effort can build upon the work of the Trenton Digital Initiative (TDI), which distributes free computers and low-cost, high-speed Internet to economically challenged Trenton families so that children can do their homework and adults can participate in the Internet economy. Finally, the City should work to establish strategic partnerships for computer and Internet literacy with regional colleges, universities, businesses, and non-profit organizations.