Lack of access to technology, training, or reliable Internet are all factors widening the digital divide, causing or exacerbating education or wealth disparity through location, income, or age. Where the digital divide has caused great needs for technology, training or broadband access, many community organizations and non-profits across the nation have risen to the challenge. However, starting or expanding a new technology-based program in a community slashed by the digital divide raises many challenges such as how to find funding, where to find resources, and how to find experienced instructors. Though many established organizations have already solved these challenges, only tenuous networks exist to connect these groups. Partners Bridging the Digital Divide (PBDD), a new partner in the Connected Program, works to connect these groups and provide essential resources to new entrants, building a framework for expansion and sharing invaluable solutions.
After volunteering for years with the People’s Resource Center in Wheaton, IL, PBDD President Barry Glicklich saw a need for a network connecting community organizations and non-profits working with technology. “There was nothing that tied agencies together to share best practices, to learn from each other, or that encouraged the start of new programs,” said Glicklich.
Founded in January, 2015, PBDD works with partners across the country, including Connected Nation. Compiling information and case studies from each organization’s successes and challenges, PBDD provides a framework and best practices for starting or managing a tech refurbishment group or technology training agency. Consolidating the information gleaned from different groups, as well as publicly available resources from groups like TechSoup and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, PBDD shares information to provide a roadmap for future organizations.
With more public resources moving to online formats, technology becomes more important every day. From taking the GRE test to paying utility bills, from filing tax forms to applying for jobs, online applications are essential and, for some, unavoidable.
“A whole lot of people don’t have access to basic technology essentials,” said Katherine Lato, PBDD Vice President of Communications. “And that divide is getting bigger all the time.”
Instead of focusing on one community or one approach, PBDD makes it easier for a wide variety of agencies to develop their own solutions based on the needs they identify.
“We need a three-pronged approach,” said Lato. “It’s about getting equipment to people, getting training to people and then getting broadband access. We are interested not in one particular community, but getting that information to everyone.” To learn more, check out their website at http://pbdd.org.
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