Bridging Communities: Narrowing the digital divide in San Francisco one computer at a time

Video transcript

Bridging Communities: Narrowing the digital divide in San Francisco one computer at a time

"Over 100,000 San Franciscans today either lack broadband home Internet or basic digital skills" from the Digital Equity Strategic Plan of San Francisco.



Leo Sosa, Founder & CEO of Dev/Mission:  My name is Leo Sosa, I am the Founder and Executive Director for Dev Mission. 

The reason why Dev/Mission started the CTA program is that when we launched our first pilot for the pre-apprenticeship program where we're looking to find a way for these young people to find employment opportunities, work-based learning, and even giving back to the community.

Learning skills and giving back

So we started having an idea about bringing this program to affordable housing communities at the time we launched the Dev/Mission organization.  We had no idea what that would look like, but we felt that the young people that graduated from the program will receive the type of skills, the type of experience so they could build their portfolio and show they were giving back to the communities, primarily in affordable housing communities.

Community Technology Associate (CTA) Program

The goal for the Community Technology Associate program is to provide young people that graduate from our pre-apprenticeship program a work-based learning experience by helping low-income families in affordable housing communities with like free tech support, digital literacy training, workshops, and on top of that computer distribution.

Martin Manuel, CTA Program Coordinator:  As a CTA coordinator, I run different sites in San Francisco where we provide free tech support and digital literacy to these communities. 


Not only do we do that, but we also refurbish computers and donate these to affordable housing communities.  Not only do they get free devices, but they also get digital literacy such as Gmail, Internet safety, typing.  Throughout this whole workshop which is called a Refurbathon, they also get free resources such as the ACP program, the Digital Equity, SF Public Library.  We helped around 1,700 residents and donated over a 1,000 computers.  This program could not have been done without the CTA interns because their goal is to bridge the cyber-city gap in San Francisco.

Internet, devices, and digital literacy

We think of it like a highway where the freeway is the internet, the car is the device, such as laptops and computers, and the driver is driver's education so which is digital literacy.  When this car breaks down the CTA interns will be there, which are the ones that will fix your devices.

Matthew Estonina, CTA Intern:  My name is Matthew Estonina, I am a Community Technology Associate with Dev/Mission, also known as a CTA, offer free tech support to the community as well as digital literacy classes.  I have been extremely thankful to work with Dev/Mission as a CTA. This internship has given me the chance to give back to my community as well as gain hands-on experience in the tech industry.  It has been amazing.

Estefany Oxlaj, CTA Intern:  My name is Estefany Oxlaj and I am one of the CTA interns for Dev/Mission located here at the Women's Building.  As a CTA, my experience has been really good, it makes me happy to know that I am able to help out anybody that has trouble with their computers, their phones, or tablets.  I know a lot of people, especially like seniors, can have trouble being able to navigate the computers, so helping them and as well helping them understand features on the computer has been great and I am super grateful to be doing this experience and helping out people for free.


Investing in community

Leo Sosa:  It is very beneficial because now we are able to bring more funding to the communities that we are providing the tech support.  Now we have like AT&T,  the Mayor's Office of Community Development, providing bigger funding for us to be able to do this amazing work because let us face it, a lot of underserved communities, affordable housing communities, do not have something like, I am sitting in front of a computer lab, or have a technician around that they can get their free tech support, having young people providing digital literacy workshops. 

The benefits are not only for the organization helping these young people learn the skills, but the community itself receives a bigger benefit by having access to technology, having access to a computer lab, having access to a technician, and on top of that computers that will be available to them.  So we want to make sure that that ecosystem becomes available for every community in San Francisco.  So the benefits are amazing, but if we do not have the funding, there is no way that we can bring those benefits to the communities that we serve.


San Francisco Housing Development Corporation (SFHDC)

Taylor Booker, Resident Services Manager:  San Francisco Housing Development Corporation decided to partner with Dev/Mission on the CTA program because we were already a very strong partner on some of our RAD sites for Stem programming and music lab workshops and so it was a no-brainer to continue the partnership and to bring, not only an aspect of youth tech support, but to support maybe the families, adults, and seniors. The CTA program has been a tremendous addition to an already an existing partnership with Dev/Mission. 

The CTA program has been a tremendous benefit not only to our residents but the community as a whole.  Our residents are able to access this resource on-site where they live, they are able to take their laptop or their tablet, most of the case is a tablet that was donated and given to them by Dev/Mission at a workshop on-site.  Youth and families are able to come together and get this tech support which is extremely beneficial, not only for the family as a whole, but to be able to take their knowledge and take what they have learned into their community and teach others so it has been a tremendous help with just making sure our folks stay up-to-date with everything that is changing.

Briana Guzman, Resident Services Connector: The CTA program is beneficial and a good asset to the community because it helps those who are in the community not have to travel too far outside and a lot of them do not have the resources in order to go to external companies in order to get their technical issues fixed.  So I feel like it is a really good, good opportunity and as well as it is giving other youth, especially in the community as well an opportunity to actually be those that resource for their own, their own community.


Program support

Leo Sosa:  So back in 2018, we had the Mayor's Office of Community Development gave us a small grant to start this idea and this idea became a reality even during the pandemic.  We identified that during the pandemic a lot of families did not have computers, a lot of families did not have any way to get free tech support.  So not only we were able to get that funding to get us started, but also put the idea on hold just for a few months as we started getting more requests about the opportunity. 

Then back in 2020, we had the Stupski Foundation gave us a three-year grant to really take this program to the next level.  We had an alumni that put together the idea, the model, we worked together on that and as soon as we got that grant we were so excited to know that we had the funding for us to be able to bring Community Technology Associate interns but then having the right partners to make sure the program became successful.


Stupski Foundation

Malila Becton-Consuegra, Postsecondary Success Program Officer: So there were a few things about that proposal that really stood up to us, the first thing was that we really liked the founder, yourself Leo, we liked that you are from the community that your program serves, so that was the first thing.  Second thing that we really liked is that the program, it has a kind of a two-fold thing so it is teaching young people how to do technology work but also having them get back to the communities by giving away refurbished computers and helping community members with their technology needs, so that was part of it.

And then the third part was during that time it was I believe 2020, deep into the COVID pandemic and the thought of being able to teach elderly people that are in public housing how to use technology just seems so important because so many people were disconnected from their health care providers, Church communities, families, and technology would be the only way for them to stay connected.  So we just felt like that was a win-win-win situation.



Cammy Blackstone, Director of External Affairs at AT&T:  My name is Cammy Blackstone and I am the Director of External Affairs for AT&T in San Francisco.  I first became aware of Dev/Mission about five years ago and we have been supporting in a variety of ways from partnering on our Access program for low-income households and also for through grants and partnering on getting people registered for the Affordable Connectivity Program and all kinds of stuff.

When AT&T announced that we were going to do these grants where we could partner with a non-profit to push out the Digital Learn Program to as many people as possible, the first group I thought of was Dev/Mission and a lot of that had to do with the CTA program which I think is such a great model where they take kids and train them in the digital skills that they need to get a job in the tech world and participate in that tech economy and then they in turn use those skills to train their neighbors and residents in their communities and also in the public housing and I just have a lot of faith and a lot of respect for what happens at Dev/Mission and I just think that these CTAs will be the best teachers of this program.


Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development of San Francisco (MOHCD)

Rey LaChaux, Digital Equity Manager, :  My name is Rey LaChaux and I am the Digital Equity Manager for the Mayor's Office of Housing and Community Development of San Francisco.  Who would not want to live in a community where they can go to someone they know, or someone a familiar face and get their digital needs met. 

Having that trust is super important.  If you do not trust the organization you are not going to go through their doors.  I think Dev/Mission has done, had laid a solid track record for building trust with communities, especially affordable housing sites, prior to receiving the grant and so when you go to, when you build that track record, you build that credibility that goes so far that goes really far that goes a long way.  So that was one of the main reasons why I would say that I advocated for the program and and the proof is in the pudding and I have to say that the public likes how it tastes.


Special thanks and closing

Leo Sosa:  I really want to thank everyone that has been thinking about this idea for the past almost six years.  First of all, the Mayor's Office of Housing Community Development, Alex Banh, Rey LaChaux, who have continued to support this idea for quite some time.  The Stupski Foundation, Glenn, Malila, Chase, everyone out there that made this program happen because of your contribution.  Most recently, AT&T, Cammy Blackstone for allowing us to have this wonderful grant to now provide digital literacy workshops with also a computer as they complete the workshops.  We also have Verizon who is also helping us with the ACP program. 

We also have volunteers that have come to be part of the program, but most importantly our program coordinators they have been part of the program:  Ruqaiyah, Marvin Martin, and all the wonderful 20 plus Community Technology Associates that provided so many wonderful tech support hours, computer distribution, but most importantly some of them are getting their Google IT support certification, and some of them have earned jobs in the tech industry.

That is why, I am so thankful to everyone that has made this happen and if you are interested to continue to support this idea, you know where you find us.  Let us continue to make this happen because that is the only way we are going to close the digital divide in San Francisco and beyond.


Creative Team:
Director:  Ismael Sosa
Videographer & Editor:  Carl Celedio