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Digital Access For All: Jamillah’s Quest to Connect Residents to Reliable Internet
How much of your day depends on technology? In today’s digital society, we rely heavily on a stable internet connection and working technology to help us get work done, connect with each other, and share a wealth of information. When COVID-19 sent many people home to work and learn, those virtual resources became even more important. But for families in low income housing communities, it can be hard to stay connected. Whether it’s access to affordable high speed internet or being able to get a computer at home to use, there are ever-present challenges. For Jamillah, Director, Community Impact and Investment, these challenges felt like something she could help overcome. Over the course of 2 years, she championed and set in motion a program to provide digital access to families living in 11 properties across the country.
A spark of inspiration brings a positive impact for hundreds of families
Jamillah has worked for nearly 20 years in Underwriting and has seen many loan and investment opportunities to finance affordable housing communities. In her job each day, she works to ensure these communities will create homes for families that will be the heart of their daily activities. While attending a conference about her work, Jamillah was struck with a thought. “If you’re not digital, you might get left behind,” she remembered. When pondering what this meant for the families in the housing communities, she felt compelled to do something. “Low income families could end up left behind in modern society due to a lack of access to digital resources” Jamillah explains. “It is hard to find a job, work on school work, pursue training or learning opportunities, apply for assistance or benefits or attend health care appointments without reliable internet access,” she added.
After leaving the conference, Jamillah approached leaders and other teams at Capital One to find out how to support digital access and connect families with the resources they need. From those conversations, she created the Capital One Digital Access (CODA) program, where she led cross-functional teams from across the Capital One organization. Every team member was excited to make a real and lasting impact in the lives of families in their communities. The team partnered with organizations where Capital One financed the new construction or renovation of the properties to pilot their digital access program.
Filling a gap in digital access during a crucial time
Prior to the start of the program, it was identified that nearly 40% of residents lacked internet access in similar communities. The program grants free digital access to all building residents for a set period of time to get them started. There are also free Chromebooks and tablets available to residents. The entire program took almost 2 years to set up and as it was nearing launch, the COVID-19 restrictions began taking effect. School, work and most of the family life was moved within the home. This caused the team to re-evaluate their efforts. They ended up expanding and expediting the initiative so that those impacted could have the access they needed during this critical time.
Thanks to the efforts of the team, residents in 11 communities have free digital access. Children are able to attend their virtual lessons, parents are able to work remotely and senior citizens can still maintain contact with healthcare providers while still staying safely in their homes. The digital access is also helping families connect across miles and stay in touch while visiting isn’t possible.
When asked about her reflections on spearheading this initiative, Jamillah shared that she “appreciates how Capital One supports their employees and backs their ideas to improve the community around them.” Putting one’s job skills and expertise to good use for the benefit of those around you is a special kind of giving back. As residents continue navigating the changes to daily life while working, learning and connecting, they can take comfort in knowing they have reliable access to connect and complete their important tasks.
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