By Nan Price, Content Manager, MetroHartford Alliance
In partnership with the Hartford Chamber of Commerce, a MetroHartford Alliance initiative, internationally recognized technology company Google is bringing free digital skills workshops to Hartford. Google also selected New Haven and New London for workshop locations.
Google is partnering with the Hartford Chamber of Commerce, the Hartford Public Library, the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, the New Haven Free Public Library, and the Public Library of New London as well as the American Library Association to provide Connecticut residents with ongoing access to digital skills tools and resources for job-seekers, small businesses, and entrepreneurs.
In its 2017 Connecticut Economic Impact Report, Google noted 14,000 businesses throughout Connecticut generated $4.13 billion in economic activity by using Google’s search and advertising tools.
The Grow with Google workshops are part of Google’s initiative to help create economic opportunity in communities across the United States. The one-day events aim to help job seekers, small business owners, students, educators, and entrepreneurs improve their digital skills.
Google staff will lead hands-on workshops about online marketing for small businesses, search engine optimization, email basics, and coding. Attendees can also sign up for one-on-one training with Google staff and tour demo booths to learn more about Google’s free products for learners and small businesses. Attendees can drop in for hour-long sessions or stay the entire day.
“Google targeted Hartford because it has a thriving business community with many educational institutions. The Hartford Public Library was an enthusiastic, willing partner. We felt it was a great opportunity match,” explains Google Communications Manager Peter Schottenfels.
“The tools Google offers are free and incredibly powerful. There’s always something new and innovative,” says Tricia George, YOUmedia & Teen Services Director at the Hartford Public Library.
“In addition to the Hartford Public Library, many other Hartford-area nonprofit partners and organizations, including the Hartford Chamber, have a real appetite to teach digital skills to their clients and their constituents,” Peter noted.
Bringing the program to the library’s branch adds another advantage by engaging with a different community.
“It’s essential to the work of the Hartford Chamber to participate with the Hartford Public Library on this type of project,” emphasizes MetroHartford Alliance President and CEO David Griggs. “Clearly Google sees something in Hartford. They’re bringing this training to communities to help foster innovation and build skills to help entrepreneurs be more tech savvy with their businesses—how is that not great news for us?”
BRIDGING THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
Grow with Google workshops at the Hartford Public Library dovetail with the Crossroads to Connectivity initiative, which addresses the lack of broadband infrastructure in certain areas of Hartford, particularly the city’s North End.
The two-part program is supported by a grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. In Phase 1, the library will loan out laptop computers and Wi-Fi hotspots to those who qualify for the program. Phase 2 will provide broadband access through TV White Space technology.
“Libraries build communities, but communities build libraries as well. It’s much more than books; libraries enable access to information through education and Internet access. We’re a great asset to the community at large,” underscores Homa Naficy, Executive Director of The American Place at the Hartford Public Library.
“Certainly, people need to learn about the different resources, whether its Microsoft Office products or Google tools and resources, but there’s also a major broadband issue in parts of Hartford’s North End. The Internet connection is poor, and that impacts businesses,” explains Homa.
“The bigger picture is how to bridge that divide. There needs to be a collaboration of entities—businesses, education, and government. When we talk about digital divide, it’s about affordable broadband Internet access and training on how to successfully navigate the Internet with more than a billion websites, including the increasing number of critical government services accessible only online.” she adds.
“With Google coming to Hartford, we wanted host the workshops in our North End neighborhood branch to expose more of the people and businesses here to those products,” says Homa. “More importantly, Google is training educators and providers. So, after those one-day workshops we can continue to offer workshops. There’s a sustainability aspect. People can become exposed to these applications—and continue learning.”
Tricia echoes that sentiment, adding, “We really hope this will open additional doors for Google to return to Hartford. We’re happy to continue working with them and receiving their support to address the digital divide in Hartford.”
HARTFORD SMALL BUSINESS BENEFITS
The Grow with Google workshops help people looking for jobs and those who want to grow their small businesses using the Internet. They can become aware of easy and free ways to use Google and the web to increase their online presence.
“These workshops and collaborations can help Hartford businesses grow online. We feel that’s good for Hartford’s economic development overall. And we think with our free online tools Hartford companies can go global. That’s why we’re coming in and what we hope small businesses can gain from our programming,” says Peter.
“I’d like to think this is the beginning of a variety of programming the Hartford Chamber will do for all types of businesses, large and small,” notes David. “Small businesses are certainly very important to any chamber—as are larger businesses—so we need to make sure the variety of events and programming we provide represents diverse interests. And we plan to offer more so we can help our neighborhoods be strong.”
The Grow with Google Hartford workshops will take place at the Hartford Public Library – Albany Library on Monday, February 11 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Learn about workshops at the other Connecticut locations.
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