BPS and Free Geek celebrate one-time ARPA Digital Divide Response Grant, providing new laptops and free internet for 500 IRCO Clients

News Article
City Staff, Community Partners and Commissioner Rubio joined immigrant and refugee recipients as they celebrated the success of a collaborative effort to address the digital divide in the City of Portland and Multnomah County.
Digital Navigators distributing laptops to registered clients

On Sept. 21, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) Community Technology staff joined Commissioner Rubio and Free Geek staff to distribute new-in-box laptops to IRCO immigrants and refugee clients, and to announce the continued partnership for Digital Navigation between Free Geek and IRCO Africa House. The event showcased the continued support and investment of BPS, T-Mobile and the Coalition of Digital Equity (CODE) members, who continue to work to advance the Digital Equity Action Plan in Multnomah County, while also uplifting the community served by IRCO.  

Held at IRCO, the event featured speakers who have been pivotal to this partnership’s success and persistence, including Lee Po Cha, Executive Director of IRCO, Djimet Dogo, Associate Director of IRCO, and Commissioner Carmen Rubio.  

“I am thrilled to be here today to celebrate this exceptional Public/Non-Profit/Private Partnership with Free Geek, IRCO and T-Mobile,” Said Commissioner Rubio, “This program is a shining example of working collaboratively to provide meaningful benefits to the community. In doing so, we are advancing our Digital Equity Action Plan throughout Multnomah County.”  

After the speakers wrapped up, lunch was served, and staffers went to work distributing 500 new Samsung Chromebooks and a 12-month free internet subscription from T-Mobile to the various IRCO clients in attendance. Over the next two hours, 20 IRCO Digital Navigators worked with the clients to set up their new devices and internet subscriptions. The program aims to work full circle to not only provide devices and connectivity, but to also increase digital skills training and digital literacy among the recipients.  

Moving forward, Free Geek’s Executive Director, Juan Muro Jr., and Manager of Programs, Ashley Martinez, will provide each recipient with Digital Navigation support and digital literacy assistance through training events. The Coalition of Digital Equity and Free Geek were both instrumental in sourcing funding to support Digital Navigation resources, while BPS’s Community Technology Program supported this project with a one-time APRA Digital Divide Response Project Grant.