Digital Inclusion in South City
UofM partners with Start Co., Knowledge Quest, CodeCrew and Urban Strategies


Dr. Charlie Santo, department chair and associate professor of City and Regional Planning, was recently awarded $575,537 from the City of Memphis Division of Housing and Community Development for his project, "Digital Inclusion in South City." Santo will serve as the principal investigaton with co-investigator, Dr. Gregory Washington, professor in Social Work, in partnership with Start Co., Knowledge Quest, CodeCrew, and Urban Strategies.

The purpose of this project is to begin to bridge the digital divide – a problem that has been exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Phase I includes:

  • provision of broadband internet to selected households
  • provision of “digital literacy” training to selected households
  • provision of advanced “digital education” training to selected youth participants 

The geographic focus area for this phase will be South City and its surroundings (the 38126 zip code). The scope includes provision of broadband internet service to identified households for a two-year period. The target is to provide service to 500 households for this period. A social envelop approach will be employed to ensure that households that receive broadband service are able to use the technology to its fullest capacity. This will be accomplished by linking the digital inclusion effort to existing case management work and employing digital Mentors. The UofM School of Urban Affairs and School of Social Work will identify and onboard up to 12 student interns who will serve as digital Mentors, working with Start Co., Knowledge Quest, and Urban Strategies on the South City Digital Inclusion project. Everyone On, a national expert in internet enrollment and training, will provide a curriculum and training for the digital Mentors to use. The target is to provide mentorship to at least 250 of the households who receive internet service. The student interns will work 15 hours per week for a total of 30 weeks. Following a short training period, each intern will work with a cohort of 3-5 households at a time to deliver digital mentoring. The digital mentors will work with each cohort of households for a period of approximately four weeks. Over the course of the program, Santo and Washington anticipate that each digital mentor will assist between 20 and 30 households. Households for each cohort will be identified by Knowledge Quest and Urban Strategies. A higher level of skills training, beyond digital literacy, will provided for selected youth participants through offerings led by Code Crew and Knowledge Quest. Urban Strategies and Knowledge Quest case managers under their Family Stability Initiative will refer students for weekly programming. Up to 150 students will participate in these advanced training activities, which include a 36-week coding after school program and a 36-week STEM and entrepreneurship program.

For more information on this initiative, contact Santo at casanto@memphis.edu or Washington at gwshngt1@memphis.edu.