Over the past six months, COVID-19 has upended all of our lives, but low-income individuals and families are the ones who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. One area where effects are being felt the most: the digital divide. According to the Pew Research Center, 53% of Americans say that the Internet has been essential during the COVID-19 outbreak. Unfortunately, many parents with lower incomes say it’s likely their child will face digital obstacles when trying to do their schoolwork at home due to lack of Internet connection or lack of access to a device. Here at Bridging Tech, our mission is to help provide access to technology by donating laptops for learning to children in homeless shelters. But what are other nonprofits across the nation doing to help?
EveryoneOn, a nonprofit dedicated to creating social and economic opportunity, is helping to bridge the digital divide by connecting low-income families to affordable internet service and computers. Since 2012, it has helped connect more than 784,000 people to the Internet and donated thousands of computers. Connect2Complete, their flagship program for K-12 students, provides affordable internet service to qualifying families, and is offered in partnership with leading cable companies including Cox Communications and Mediacom. In response to COVID-19, EveryoneOn has provided updates on their website on what Internet service providers have done to ensure that low-income families can stay connected, and offered a service to find low-cost internet service and computers in one’s area.
Another nonprofit, National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), has taken a different approach to bridging the digital divide. A unified voice for home and public broadband access, personal devices, and support programs, NDIA combines grassroots community engagement with knowledge of tech to work for digital equity. Rather than donating devices or Internet services, NDIA hopes to bridge the digital divide through legislative change. The nonprofit supports digital inclusion practitioners and advocates, advocates for local, state, and federal policies to promote digital equity, works to educate lawmakers, media, and potential partners about the need for digital equity, and conducts, supports, and promotes data-gathering and research that can inform the public of the urgency of the digital divide. During the pandemic, NDIA has facilitated virtual community meetings to share information, acted as a messenger to relay digital needs to the media, advocated fiercely for more local, state, and federal resources, and provided a list of free and low-cost internet.
Now more than ever, it is so important to donate to these causes. Students are already back in school, and some still don’t have an adequate device or connection to the Internet, and these things that are needed in order just to have an opportunity to succeed.