SALT LAKE CITY — Even as large swaths of Salt Lake City remain unwired for Google Fiber service, a nonprofit dedicated to helping refugees and new Americans is celebrating the company's gift of new, super-high-speed internet access.
The International Rescue Committee, a global nonprofit with the mission of aiding victims of humanitarian crises, helping refugees transition to new homes and assisting new Americans, was chosen as a Google Community Connections partner, which includes free gigabit (1,000 megabits) internet service.
The committee's Salt Lake City office has been in operation since 1994 and manages about two dozen programs that assist more than 2,000 citizens or refugee clients annually. The organization also typically helps over 600 refugees resettle in Utah communities each year. Acting Executive Director Natalie El-Deiry said the partnership with Google and new internet service will help expand and improve her organization's work.
"We're looking forward to using our improved digital tools … and better learning and education systems," El-Deiry said. "The faster connectivity will also aid in the field work our staff does, assisting clients participating in programs like our Spice Kitchen business incubator, Sunnyvale Farmers Market and micro-training farms."
El-Deiry said the committee also works extensively on digital literacy improvement for its clients, offering training that ranges from basic computer skills to how to utilize the internet as a small business marketing tool.
"There's a broad range of needs, because of differing backgrounds, among refugees and new Americans," El-Deiry said. "We tailor our digital inclusion efforts to meet them where they're at, pairing people with tech mentors to learn basic computing skills, how to open an email account all the way up to more advanced concepts."
Google's community impact manager for Salt Lake City, Jacob Brace, said the work of the rescue committee matches well with the types of organizations the Community Connections program was developed to assist.
"Community Connections is a way for us to work with local (nongovernmental organizations), libraries and community centers to narrow the digital divide," Brace said. "The IRC has a really unique opportunity to work with new Americans and refugees in developing their skills to use the internet as a resource.
"We're excited to see how they'll be using the super-fast service to improve all the work they're doing."
Brace said the rescue committee is the second Salt Lake City-based organization to be named a Community Connections partner, joining the YWCA Utah in Salt Lake City. He said the Google fiber gigabit connectivity should help turbocharge the work being done by El-Deiry's organization.
"Digital inclusion strategies are extremely important for Salt Lake City and all communities and the (International Rescue Committee) is well-positioned to take that on," Brace said. "Their development of programs aimed at improving digital literacy and fostering digital inclusion and is ideally suited to take advantage of faster internet connectivity."Comment on this story
For Salt Lakers who are interested in Google fiber service but still don't have access in their neighborhoods, Brace said the 3-year-old project is ongoing.
"We have active customers in Salt Lake City, with service in the city's four corners," Brace said. "And we're regularly bringing on new customers."
To learn about the work of the International Rescue Committee, visit rescue.org. To find out if you are eligible for Google Fiber service in your neighborhood, visit fiber.google.com/cities/saltlakecity.