Sapna NYC Offers Virtual Computer Literacy Courses for Immigrant Women

The coronavirus pandemic has shown the value of digital literacy, especially as lockdowns around the country have forced millions of people to rely on technology to work and stay connected from home. Although restrictions on lockdowns are progressively being relaxed and offices are starting to reopen, remote work is here to stay. Indeed, computer literacy is critical in nearly all aspects of life today. With companies embracing emerging technology like machine learning, Big Data, and analytics, staff will need to continue developing new skills and adapting to changes. A study conducted by YouGov, O2 and ICM found that more than 11.3 million people did not have a full range of necessary digital skills, while 4.3 million had none. According to the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), almost 21 percent of immigrant adults who spoke a language other than English at home did not have any computer experience.

Sapna NYC understands the need for computer literacy for South Asian immigrant women, especially as work, services, applications, and communication move online. As part of Sapna’s workforce development work, this semester, Sapna partnered with the SUNY ATTAIN Lab to provide a virtual digital literacy course for students who want to advance their knowledge of Microsoft Word and basic Internet skills.  This program is funded by the New York State Office of New Americans (ONA).

“The world we live in now is predominantly determined by technology. Pretty much everything we use today is controlled by a computer, from cars to TVs to cell phones. I lost my job during the pandemic, and now I am trying to apply for a different job. Most of the jobs required computer skills, but I do not have enough computer skills. So, I think this class is for me. Thank you, Sapna, for arranging such a helpful class for us in this critical time.” said Rabeya, a community member who is looking for a job, but because of inadequate computer knowledge, she was unable to apply for her desired jobs.

Digital literacy consists of the ability to find, create, and share information using computers and smart cell phones. “As immigrants begin their new lives in America, it is often essential for them to use technology and the internet for a myriad of things, including searching and applying for jobs, accessing Government benefits and services, finding help or needed information, assisting children with school work, and managing finances. This is even more true in the midst of a pandemic when everything suddenly and completely shifted to the virtual space,” said Diya Basu-Sen, executive director of Sapna NYC.  The organization first started computer classes in 2019 in partnership with Parkchester Library. The classes were facilitated in Bengali and allowed first-time computer users to learn computer basics.

Throughout this computer literacy class, students have learned about communicating online effectively using email, safety risks while using the Internet, best practices for sharing information online, and have been introduced to cyberbullying. Students have also gained knowledge about Microsoft Office, Outlook and One Drive. The course is divided into six modules, and each of the six parts is divided into different sections, with each section containing its own set of topics that serve as the foundation of Digital Literacy.

“Computer literacy class is beneficial for me in many ways. There are many reasons for developing digital skills, but the main reason is to keep up with the technology and revise the knowledge that I already know,” said a student from the class who used to be a computer teacher in Bangladesh. “We all know how far things like mobile phones and cars have advanced in the last decade alone. Fast forward 10 or 20 years, and who knows where we will be.”