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Bayfront Health donates hundreds of computers to help bridge digital divide

Veronica Brezina

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Pictured is the Bayfront Health team that is donating the computers to the community. All photos were provided by Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.

Bayfront Health St. Petersburg has donated over 17,000 pounds of computers and other equipment to help provide access to those who don’t have digital resources. 

Bayfront is working with Digital Inclusion St. Pete, an effort co-led by the St. Pete Innovation District and Deuces Live. Through its Gadgets for Good program, it collects electronics and distributes them throughout the community so that people can access the internet and grow their skill with computers. 

Alison Barlow, who is co-leading the program, reached out to Bayfront after Bayfront Health St. Petersburg was acquired by Orlando Health. The existing equipment and materials were part of the acquisition. 

“When we came here, there were assets from the previous owner and batches of laptops that were not up to our standard, and some were still left in unopened boxes,” said Omar Gonzalez, Senior IT Director at Bayfront. “The existing technology here was older and due for replacement. We found out about what the Innovation District was doing and we know we would replace a lot of the older equipment, which now had some value.” 

The technology Bayfront has donated.

The equipment donated from the 480-bed hospital ranged from laptops and desktops to printers and monitors. 

“Bayfront has been the largest contributor,” Barlow said. 

She explained that the digital inclusion group formed in 2019 with a focus on developing a comprehensive approach to fill the gaps in digital literacy throughout St. Pete. 

Today in the South St Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area (CRA), 44.4% of households with income of less than $20,000 are without an internet subscription and 27% of households with income of $20,000 to $75,000 are without an internet subscription, according to Bayfront Health.

“We really want to try to help as many as we can especially with many people at home during the pandemic who were suffering from that digital divide,” Bayfront Health Community Relations Manager Bari Becker said. 

Digital Inclusion St. Pete focuses on two primary areas to close the gap in digital literacy. One area of focus is to provide computers to individuals. Another area is to work with nonprofits that provide desktops that can be placed in locations throughout neighborhoods in the city, which Barlow refers to as “tech hubs.” 

Other organizations that have contributed to the program include the St. Pete Chamber, the St. Pete Housing Authority and Guardian Eagle, a St.Pete database protection company. 

Typically, organizations wipe the computers before donating them. Digital Inclusion St. Pete’s partner eSmart Recycling then wipes the computers a second time. 

While Digital Inclusion St. Pete is an all-volunteer-led initiative, Barlow said the goal is to incorporate it as a 501(c)3 and find another organization to run it. 

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