Transforming lives through digital literacy.

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At first glance, Robert Chau, 77, doesn’t appear to be your typical power Android user.

From cleaning his Android app cache to customizing the homescreens of his launcher, Robert uses his Samsung Galaxy S5 in an amazingly robust way, usually characteristic of a much younger generation of Android users.

His newfound passion for technology did not happen overnight. Several things had to happen before they did. The foundation? Robert possesses a trait common among learners who similarly frequent the SF Connected network of computer labs — a strong desire to acquire and retain knowledge.


New World, New Beginnings

“My mom came to America before I did 25 years ago. While still in Canton, China, she taught me that knowledge is the most powerful weapon one can wield,” he shares.

Upon arriving in the U.S. in the early 90s, Robert found work in the airport food services industry to make ends meet. He used most of his income to support his teenage kids, eventually paying their way through college.

Recently retired, Robert currently lives in Section 8 housing in the Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco. Before discovering technology, he spent much of his free time reading nonfiction books and eating out at senior centers that provided meals at low and no costs.

Discovering Access

In late June, after finishing a meal at the Western Addition Senior Center, Robert took special notice of the computer lab — especially busy with users that day. He enrolled in an English training session where he learned fundamental basics of desktop computing. Afterwards, he discovered it would be the instructor’s last shift there.

Robert found a social worker and asked about alternate sessions. He learned that not only were technology classes regularly held at nearby Rosa Parks Senior Center — provided by Community Technology Network — but also that they happened to be in his native dialect.

That Thursday, Robert attended his first session at Rosa Parks, marking the first time he would use his Galaxy S5 — a hand-me-down smartphone from his son — for functions beyond making phone calls.

Crossing the Divide

A month later, Robert asked his son to buy him a laptop computer. He wanted to start applying at home the digital skills that he learned from using the lab computers. Last week, he enrolled in Internet Essentials, a program that provides affordable Internet access to low-income seniors.

Today, Robert regulary attends CTN classes at computer labs at four different locations: Eastern Park Apartments, YWCA SF-Marin, Rosa Parks Senior Center, and Mission Neighborhood Center.

His dedication to learning has ultimately crossed over into the digital realm — the torch of his mother’s wisdom carried on.

Sparking Literacy

Spreading digital literacy can seem daunting, its effect random. Sometimes, all it takes is a spark — one anyone can create. Volunteer now to get involved and make a difference!

Learner Spotlight: Robert Chau

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Adam Lui