SAN LEANDRO, CA - In response to the COVID-19 pandemic Shelter-in-Place orders, the City of San Leandro recently executed a public-private partnership to bridge the digital divide. Through this innovative program, approximately 95 local residents who were unable to access the internet were provided at no cost with refurbished laptops and assistance in accessing free internet hotspots or reduced cost home internet services.
“The City of San Leandro realizes how critical internet communications are today and how the closure of our public facilities impacted San Leandrans who depend on them,” noted Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter. “This program is part of a much broader effort to support the public and help our most vulnerable residents during these very challenging times.”
To move forward with the program quickly, the City identified local San Leandro residents who had been negatively impacted by the closure of the City’s library system and community centers. In particular, the City focused on those community members who were known to regularly use the free public computers and internet service available at those City facilities.
The City worked together with the Oakland-based nonprofit Tech Exchange, which focuses on refurbishing corporate computers to “build a community of digitally proficient Bay Area residents who can access online education, employment, health, financial, and civic services.” The program was funded thanks to a grant from East Bay Community Energy and contributions from Common Networks, a local Bay Area company that already has agreements in place to utilize San Leandro’s city infrastructure to deliver residential high speed internet service.
In total, nearly $12,000 of computer equipment was secured and distributed to vulnerable community members. The City provided maps of locations throughout the City where free public Wi-Fi is available, including expanded outdoor access in front of the Main Library. Participants were also connected with opportunities for reduced-cost home internet service from local service providers. In addition, through the Library’s Tech-to-Go lending program, dozens of Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots were lent out to Library patrons.