One of the biggest changes you may notice upon release is how much we all now depend on technology to conduct our daily lives. From applying to jobs to ordering take out, scheduling appointments to searching for information, we are expected to use the internet to accomplish many essential tasks. There is much to learn but there is help along the way. Two great sources of assistance for learning new technology skills are Garden Time and community libraries. So, let’s get started!
One of the first things you will need when returning to your community is a phone, especially important when you are looking for a job or an apartment. You can call, text, email, and search the internet on a smart phone. Cell phones can be quite expensive but there are free government phones for people who qualify. The service is called Lifeline wireless service. To be eligible, you need to be receiving a form of state or federal public assistance such as Supplemental Social Security income (SSI), aid from the Family Independence Program (welfare), the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps), the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or Medicaid health insurance. There are a variety of Lifeline wireless service providers in Rhode Island and not all of their phone plans are the same. To see a list of providers and what they offer, go to the RI Public Utilities website at: http://www.ripuc.ri.gov/utilityinfo/telecom/Lifeline.html
In order to receive messages online (for example responses from job applications you submit), you will need an email address. The good news is there are many providers that offer free email accounts. Some of those are listed below. Please remember when you are selecting a title/name for your email address that you pick something you don’t mind a future employer seeing. A good rule of thumb is first name or initial and last name (example: firstname.lastname@example.org). Free email service providers and websites where you can sign up:
- https://login.aol.com/account/createGmail (RECOMMENDED–works well with Chromebooks and Google Docs)
- Other providers include:
To get an email address form any of these providers, you will need to create an account online. If you have trouble accessing these websites, you can find the online sign-up pages for any of these providers by searching through Google – type into the Google search box: sign up page for [name of provider]. When setting up your account, you will be asked for your mobile phone number.
In today’s world, internet access makes our daily tasks more efficient; some tasks can only be done online. Cell phones provide internet access but you can also get free computer and internet access at libraries, cafes and many other public spaces. Follow their instructions to connect.
As part of a stimulus bill, the federal government has set aside money for an Emergency Broadband Benefit Program designed to help Americans stay connected to the internet during the pandemic. Eligible households can receive up to $50 off their current internet service, including equipment costs. If you receive Medicaid, SNAP, SSI or if you child receives free lunch at school you can apply. More info at: https://www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit.
FIND INFORMATION AND SUBMIT APPLICATIONS There is a world of information on the internet. This guide, for example, lists quite a few websites that give you more information about job trainings, employment search, services and assistance. Many of the training programs listed in this guide ask you to apply online and most job applications are also now online.
LEARN TO BE SAFE ONLINE You will be asked to come up with passwords for many sites. To create a strong password, choose several unique dictionary words that you can easily remember but that are not easily associated with you and your online persona. For example, do not choose the names of family members, seasons of the year, etc. but something like – “lively-green-forever”. Some sites may require that your password include capital letters, numbers, special characters or any combination of these. In this case, our example would instead be “LivelyGreenForever2%”. Most importantly, make your passwords unique but memorable only to you.
Be careful not to open any unknown email attachments or click on any suspicious links, even ones that look like they were sent from someone you know. There are bad people on the Internet who send emails that try to lure you into opening malicious files or clicking links that may ask for your online credentials (username and password.) Accidentally sharing those could allow those bad people to log into your email or banking accounts. This is commonly referred to as ‘phishing’.
Public libraries are wonderful community resources that offer many services to residents for free. There are over 70 community libraries in RI! Besides borrowing books, you can also borrow tapes, movies, eBooks, and sometimes even tools and toys. Libraries provide free access to computers and the internet, and free classes to help you learn the basics of computers. Many also offer ESL and GED classes for adults, homework help and after school programs for children and teens, and reading activities programs for parents with tots. The resource desk can also help you research a topic or question that interests you.
To apply for a library card, you will need two forms of ID with proof of RI residency and at least one with a photo (such as a driver’s license or RI ID, utility bill, lease, car registration). Visit your local public library and explore what they have to offer.
Providence Community Libraries has a list of branches in Providence. https://www.provcomlib.org/
Providence Public Library is the main branch downtown. https://www.provlib.org/
Ocean State Libraries provides statewide online library access. https://www.oslri.org/