Computer Reach Bridging the Digital Divide for Faster and Life-Saving Responses
Cokeburg, Pennsylvania, July 5, 2023 – The Borough of Cokeburg is experiencing a remarkable transformation in its emergency services, thanks to the Washington Digital Navigator Project’s assistance to the Cokeburg Volunteer Fire Department. By providing access to critical devices and essential digital skills training, the project will have a significant impact on the department, resulting in improved life-saving emergency services and faster, more efficient responses to fire protection and other critical situations.
Established in 1947, the Cokeburg Volunteer Fire Department, which consists of approximately 25 dedicated volunteers who respond to emergencies and actively engage in fundraising efforts, relies on the support of the borough of Cokeburg and North Bethlehem township to cover operational costs. Under the leadership of Chief Dave Lambert, a dedicated public safety veteran with 28 years of service, the department responds to an average of 250 calls annually, a number that continues to rise each year.
A few years ago, the Washington County Department of Public Safety introduced cutting-edge dispatching software that revolutionized emergency notifications for both volunteer and career members. This innovative technology allowed responders to receive emergency notifications on their mobile devices, laptops, and iPads in their vehicles. Chief Lambert explains, “The implementation of the new dispatching software marked a significant shift in county-wide fire response, empowering responders to provide the quickest possible aid to those in need.” However, progress often comes at a cost. “The increasing expenses associated with fire equipment, insurance, and day-to-day operations have made it impossible for our department to upgrade its six operational vehicles with portable devices and the latest dispatching software, we desperately need,” Chief Lambert stated.
This is when the Washington County Digital Navigator Project stepped in to extend a helping hand to the department. The project, funded by Google.org in partnership with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and managed by Computer Reach, provided essential support in the form of five iPads and comprehensive digital skills training. These tools and training helped bridge the gap between the department’s aspirations and financial constraints. Chief Lambert praised the project’s support, saying, “We are very appreciative beyond belief to be able to finally meet our technological needs to better serve our community.”
The importance of community-based collaborations between digital inclusion projects and community-based organizations cannot be overstated, especially in rural areas with limited access to technology, devices, and digital training. These partnerships enable community organizations to collectively address the challenges of bridging the digital divide and ensuring equal opportunities for all community members.
By working together, we contribute to the creation of strong community-based digital inclusion ecosystems, which in turn establish a solid foundation for inclusive growth, empowering communities to thrive in an increasingly interconnected world.
by Will Perez, Digital Inclusion Director