Lexington, Ky (October 7, 2020) – I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate Digital Inclusion Week 2020. It has become an important time to take stock of the work we have done and to assess what we still need to do to bridge the digital divide. This year’s Digital Inclusion Week is especially important as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools, businesses and local government into distance learning, the digital economy and remote work — thereby further exposing the digital divide.
In my last blog, I discussed how students from low-income households and unserved/underserved rural and urban households struggle with a lack of access and devices. Researchers and educators from across the country are sounding the alarm about the disproportional and persistent impact a lack of connectivity has on the education of low-income students.
Shortly after the shutdowns began, Pew Research Center conducted a study to assess how Americans were doing in light of COVID-19. Parents from lower-income households stated their children would face digital obstacles in doing schoolwork during the shutdowns:
- 43% stated their children would have to do homework on a cellphone
- 40% stated their children would have to use public WiFi due to the lack of a reliable internet connection at home
- 36% stated their children would not be able to complete their schoolwork because they don’t have access to the internet in the home
This sent educators, lawmakers, parents, broadband providers and community organizations scrambling for solutions that included providing low-cost services; suspending fees for existing services and offering free services for a limited time; and distributing devices and hotspots. Community organizations also scrambled to extend their WiFi services and hotspots so community members could access it outside their facilities. While it was heartening to see organizations rise to the occasion, these solutions led to short-term fixes for a more complicated issue. But challenges remain, and we must continue to find long-term sustainable solutions to these inequities.
So, my call to action for Digital Inclusion Week 2020 is that we can and must continue to work together to bridge the digital divide by addressing the three pillars of digital inclusion: access, adoption and use.
Without assessing the condition of all three pillars of digital inclusion, then we will not be able to adequately address the challenges faced by students who need basic resources to participate in the digital ecosystem. While Connected Nation provides programs that tackle all three pillars (see what we do here: https://youtu.be/HHHP_KazWzQe), we also recognize the importance of community leadership and partnerships between community anchor institutions, public and private institutions coming together to develop community technology plans and implement custom solutions that make sense for a community.
What can you do for Digital Inclusion Week 2020?
- Share you story with us and let us know how we can help via firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ask your elected officials to get involved in supporting local digital inclusion efforts
- Participate in community technology planning efforts
- Donate devices to local organizations on a mission to bridge the digital divide
- Follow the architect of Digital Inclusion Week, National Digital Inclusion Alliance(NDIA), and highlight digital inclusion efforts in your community using #DigitalEquityNOW and #DIW2020
About the Author: Heather Gate is the Connection Nation Director of Digital Inclusion. She is responsible for strategy development and implementation of programs that impact Digital Inclusion for all people in all places. She provides project management services including identification of program challenges and goals as well as day-to-day oversight and funding research. Heather also serves on the Federal Communications Commission’s Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment (ACDDE).
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