Google helps 'bridge the digital divide' in New London
New London — On a typical Wednesday, there's a line waiting outside both the front and back doors of the Public Library of New London when it opens at 1 p.m.
The library's 31 computers were used more than 32,000 times last year. With the relocation of the Connecticut Department of Labor American Job Center from New London to Montville, the library has been helping more job seekers. Proof of that is the more than 4,500 job-related questions it answered last year, a record. The library is starting a job club next month to address the need.
"There's a huge digital divide in New London. The library plays a big role in bridging the gap," said Madhu Gupta, executive director of the library.
On Friday, the library became a training ground for job seekers, small business owners and nonprofits to brush up on their digital skills. More than 100 people attended a free, daylong training put on by Google as part of the company's economic development initiative, known as Grow with Google.
Mayor Michael Passero said the city is starting to expand — "we call it New London on the rise," he said — and the library is an "important partner" in that growth, helping to connect residents with opportunities that are coming. He mentioned submarine construction jobs and the opportunity for New London to be a hub for the offshore wind industry. He said the city also is working on a project to develop a co-working space in the city.
New London was the third and last stop of Google's tour in Connecticut. The company held workshops in Hartford and New Haven earlier in the week. The goal is to hold these training sessions in all 50 states. Google's 2017 Economic Impact Report found that 14,000 Connecticut businesses generated $4.13 billion in economic activity through Google's tools.
The sessions included tips on search engine optimization and online marketing.
Michelle France, 34, of Middle Haddam, who does web design and social media for a book publisher in Marlborough, came to learn how to better promote her employer's business and drive traffic to his website.
Attendees also took advantage of 20-minute "ask anything" one-on-one sessions with Google staff.
Staff fielded questions from small business owners looking to better promote themselves and job seekers looking for tips. At least one person wanted to learn how to use Excel. Representatives from nonprofits came to learn how they can optimize digital tools in their work.
Therese Etoka, 18, a student at Connecticut College, said the digital skills taught Friday will be useful in whatever field she decides to go into. She's planning to major in international relations and political science. Her goal is to help women in developing countries — like her home country, Democratic Republic of Congo — leverage technology to become successful entrepreneurs.