Philly MLK holiday effort aims at digital divide

January 17, 2011 9:57:21 AM PST
Hundreds of volunteers spent the Martin Luther King, Jr. "day of service" helping Philadelphia residents bridge the digital divide.

They gathered to refurbish computers at the Armory at Girard College in North Philadelphia on Monday as part of the 16th Annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service.

"The computer is your passport, not only to the future but to knowing what's going around you," Mayor Michael Nutter said.

"Dr. King, he gave us the opportunity to, in this country, be together and work together so I figure I should give back," said volunteer Cordell Boyd. "It feels good."

The effort was part of the $25 million federally funded Freedom Rings Partnership, which aims to deliver 5,000 computers over the next few years to people in the city, where four out of ten Philadelphians don't have Internet access.

Without it, access to many jobs, education and social services is limited.

"So that everyone has an equal opportunity to apply for a job online, apply to a college, and get emergency preparedness information," said organizer Todd Bernstein.

The mayor even tried his hand at refurbishing a computer himself, but wasn't too confident in his efforts.

"It'll be a couple of years before I'm fixing your computer," Nutter said.

Dozens of events were also being held at public schools throughout the region.