The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Apr 23, 2012

Using technology to help build a better Philadelphia

Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

Above: an event from last year's Philly Tech Week

Today marks the start of a week-long celebration of technology and innovation in Philadelphia. Philly Tech Week seeks to increase the impact of innovation in the city by focusing on how technology and collaboration can improve the community.

One of the city’s major challenges is the lack of digital access: 40% of  residents lack broadband access at home.

To help engage others in finding solutions, Knight Foundation and KEYSPOT, which delivers free Internet access, training and technology at 70 sites around the city, are co-sponsoring the event’s Access and Policy track.

An insert in today’s Philadelphia Daily News maps out those free Internet access points in the city and highlights other activities taking place during the week, such as a panel on the intersection of print and digital literacy. Another session will feature leading women and minority tech entrepreneurs who will share their personal and professional stories from the technology industry. All events are free and open to the public.

Knight’s Program Director in Philadelphia, Donna Frisby-Greenwood, says that universal access will provide residents with more opportunities to better their communities:         

“[We] are dedicated to the idea that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. Clearly, a critical part of this is ensuring digital literacy for everyone. That’s why we are pleased to partner with KEYSPOTS as their co-sponsor of the Access and Policy track.”

In addition to its support for Philly Tech Week, Knight also supports a variety of other initiatives that help promote an informed and engaged Philadelphia through the use of technology. For example, earlier this month, Knight supported the launch of Connect Philly, a new tool that aggregates locations across the city that provide access to the Internet and computer training opportunities. It allows residents to send their address via text message to 215.240.7296 and find the closest available Internet access point.

The foundation also supports Project Liberty, a new media incubator with Ben Franklin Technology Partners that helps nurture technology companies inside the Philadelphia newspaper group. Last year, Knight helped launch Change By Us Philadelphia, a site that allows residents to share ideas for making their city better. The platform helps community members join or create projects, build teams and find resources to help projects succeed.

Knight also supports Code for America in Philadelphia as part of its Technology for Engagement Initiative, which funds projects that help communities use technology to take action.

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