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Remote work works, when there is reliable access

Lexington, Kentucky (June 14, 2022) - Like many other workers across the country, I began a fully remote job during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because Connected Nation is committed to connectivity for all, we are no strangers to remote work and, therefore, my at-home office setup and onboarding process was seamless. The ability to continue meaningful work during a time of absolute global turmoil was, and still is, a privilege. Yet, as the world began to open up, with vaccination rates on the rise and case numbers declining, I found myself itching for a change of scenery from my D.C. apartment.

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During the month of March, 2020, I lived in Lima, Peru. Through a program called Remote Year, I continued to work remotely while experiencing a new culture and way of life. My day-to-day schedule was undisturbed as I was able to access high-speed internet in my apartment and co-working space, as well as in several restaurants and cafes around the city.

While abroad, I connected with a few local educators and business owners about their experiences throughout the pandemic shutdown. One teacher from a private, Peruvian-Italian school in the Lima area noted that, despite her students’ advantages, they still struggled to connect. Lack of functioning devices, internet access and even lack of space within homes contributed to a loss in student learning. In Peruvian culture, it's common for homes to be multi-generational, which limits dwelling space and hinders student concentration.

As the capital city, Lima had fast and reliable internet, with about 92% of households reporting they had internet access in 2019.1 That number significantly decreases as you travel to more remote areas and regions. Families sometimes shared a single cellular device, on which all school-age kids in the home completed their lessons.2 A teacher I met also detailed how in some communities, daily lessons were broadcast over the radio, chunking age and grade levels together into just a few audio messages per day. I can only imagine how challenging this limited approach was for students with different learning styles, especially in the absence of scaffolded instruction or teacher support.

The situation has since improved in parts of Peru, but as I traveled within the country, I observed a severe Digital Divide, not too different from the one our own country continues to face. In smaller cities, such as Cusco — where travelers typically stay prior to their trek to Machu Picchu — the surrounding areas are much more rural, and families are far more disconnected.

A colleague introduced me to Añañau, a nonprofit educational center in Cusco that supports children who live in extreme poverty or have unstable family situations. Through various partnerships, the center uses digital learning in an after-school program to give students an “intellectual, quality and inclusive education.” Organizations like this one are critical to connecting marginalized students.

My time in Peru was absolutely incredible and made possible by the flexibility of my remote job and the access to reliable broadband. It is truly a gift that we are as connected as we are, especially when compared to other parts of the world. This experience has made me even more motivated to continue to advocate for U.S. students to have opportunities for digital learning in every classroom, every day.

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About the Author: Emily Jordan is the Vice President of the Connect K-12 program. Emily oversees the day-to-day operations of the organization’s Connect K-12 initiative. She manages external relationships with key stakeholders at the state and federal levels of government, including governors’ offices, education agency heads, and like-minded advocacy and membership organizations. Emily helps state education leaders and K-12 public school districts improve school connectivity and make progress toward the FCC’s 1 Mbps per student bandwidth goal. She also equips national, state, and local organizations with data to be effective advocates for the federal E-rate Program, the primary funding mechanism for school connectivity nationally.