Funder Spotlight: Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation
The Comcast NBC Universal Foundation is currently funding Donka’s assistive technology computer training to increase digital literacy for our students with disabilities. In a society that increasingly requires that individuals possess adequate technological skills to get a job, go to school, and go about their daily lives, persons with disabilities cannot develop such skills without access to special training. With a $20,000 grant award Comcast is helping Donka reach vulnerable individuals in our community who enroll in our training program – the only of its kind in our service area.
Donka recently had a chance to interview Gwen McNutt, External Affairs Manager for Comcast in the Greater Chicago Region, and ask her some questions about the foundation’s philanthropic work in the community. Gwen worked closely with Donka to help us secure a grant from the foundation and has visited Donka to watch our training in action and talk to our students and staff about the importance of our program.
One of the foundation's philanthropic focus areas is "Technology Access and Skills;" what experiences or knowledge of this need (at Comcast or in the community) led to the foundation’s commitment to funding this area? We’re a technology company, so we understand the importance of access to the internet and technology and the skills needed to effectively use them. As an Internet Service Provider with a network that spans all neighborhoods in Chicago, includes coverage in the suburban areas and across our footprint nationally, we recognize that we’re uniquely positioned to address the digital divide in this country. That’s why we created Internet Essentials, which has provided low-cost high-speed internet service at home to low-income families for nearly nine years – more than 880,000 individuals in Illinois alone have benefitted from the program.
What characteristics / strengths do you look for in nonprofits you fund under this area? Comcast works with and supports thousands of nonprofits in the Greater Chicago region and across our footprint nationwide. Our funding focuses on digital equity, digital skills building, youth development and economic development. We partner with organizations whose missions and programs align with our community investment focus. To this end, we work closely with national partners, ranging from Easter Seals and the Boys & Girls Clubs to the Urban League and others, at the national and local level. We also work with a host of local nonprofits that provide services ranging from veterans’ support, digital literacy, assistive technology and job readiness programs.
What progress has Comcast made in the community in helping people gain digital skills - especially for persons with disabilities? I am so proud of our Internet Essentials program, which has helped more than 880,000 individuals in Illinois alone connect to the internet at home. Last year, we expanded Internet Essentials’ eligibility significantly to include enrollees in nearly all government assistance programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Internet Essentials not only provides internet service; it also provides digital skills training programs. Through Internet Essentials, we’ve funded computer labs and digital skills training programs at several library branches, Boys & Girls Clubs and a host of other organizations, including Donka, Inc.
Within the organization, how does Comcast support persons as far as strengthening their digital literacy? Internet Essentials has an integrated, wrap-around design that addresses each of the three major barriers to broadband adoption that research has identified. These include: a lack of digital literacy skills, lack of awareness of the relevance of the Internet to everyday life needs, and fear of the Internet, the lack of a computer, and cost. As a result, the program includes: multiple options to access free digital literacy training in print, online, and in person, the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for less than $150; and low-cost, high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax. The program is structured as a partnership between Comcast and tens of thousands of school districts, libraries, elected officials, and nonprofit community partners. For more information, or to apply for the program in seven different languages, please visit www.internetessentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376. Spanish-only speakers can also call 1-855-765-6995.
Does Comcast have a special process for recruiting and hiring persons with disabilities? Disability inclusion is a priority for Comcast NBCUniversal. The company is focused on building a workforce that reflects the demographics of the disability community. The strategy focuses on three key elements including building a pipeline of talent by working with external partners in the disability community; cultivating an inclusive environment by educating our workforce; and empowering employees with disabilities by providing them equal access to the tools, information, support, and systems they need to succeed at work. Comcast NBCUniversal actively works to hire, retain, and empower people with disabilities while creating an inclusive environment across the organization.
On a personal note, what is your favorite app you use on your smartphone, computer, or tablet? Well, I’m obsessed with television and I can’t miss any of my shows. I’m binge watching so many shows, I can barely keep up! I use the Xfinity Stream App, which I have on all of my devices. It’s great when I’m traveling or just passing the time waiting for an appointment. I’m able to stream live and recorded TV and not miss a thing.
Thank you, Gwen, for sharing information about the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation’s dedication to increasing digital literacy and access to technology for all – and for Comcast’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace!