Andrew: What would you give up for a reliable internet connection?
What would you give up for a reliable internet connection? A heated room? An ergonomically correct chair? A perfectly positioned monitor? It’s a tough decision and a decision 2.1 million Californians must make every day.
Yes, even here in Silicon Valley, where the Internet is said to have been invented, thousands of students do not have a reliable Internet connection at home. How do we know? Stop by a Starbucks, Jack-in-the-Box, or McDonalds and take a look around. Don’t forget to scan the cars in the Target or Walmart parking lot where you’ll see parents sitting patiently while their child attends online classes or does homework. Better yet, parent and child can visit their school district’s “parent portal” to find relevant information, check grades, or apply to college.
In 2015, the East Side Union High School District, in partnership with San José Mayor Sam Liccardo, announced one of the country’s first efforts to create a district-wide network that reaches students’ homes. and families with free wireless Internet access in some areas of the city. less connected neighborhoods.
In 2019, Liccardo, in partnership with the California Emerging Technology Fund, launched the Digital Inclusion Fund, a $ 24 million public / private partnership that aims to bridge the digital divide in San Jose.
At a press conference in 2020, Liccardo said: “We must start to recognize connectivity like any other utility – electricity or water – which has become essential for survival in our modern world.”
While the 2020 pandemic brought low-cost laptops, hotspots and connectivity plans to student homes, these were only short-term fixes. And, since school districts were the primary “broker” in device disbursement and connectivity provision for underfunded families, a long-term solution is needed. We need to make sure educators spend their time educating, not ensuring students have a reliable internet connection.
When students return to full-time in-person teaching, the “demand” for school districts to provide low-cost laptops, wireless access points and connectivity plans will disappear. The “haves” will continue to have access in all forms and the “have-nots” will lose any access they have gained as a result of compulsory home learning. The digital divide will not only be maintained… it will be exasperated.
Simply put, the digital divide is the gap between those who have easy access to computers and the Internet, and those who don’t. So why should we care?
Sunne Wright McPeak, President and CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund, says, “The digital divide perpetuates differences in student performance between the best and worst performing schools. Over time, these imbalances can translate into a growing chasm that keeps low-income youth, students with disabilities, immigrant youth, and youth of color disconnected from the skills and resources they need to improve their circumstances.
Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, co-author of the Community Broadband Act, says “Fast, affordable internet is a matter of life and death. Today, tens of millions of Americans completely lack high-speed Internet.
To realize the vision of every student to become a productive and economically mobile adult, access to broadband and an understanding of the use of technology is essential. The best strategy to tackle the digital divide is digital inclusion.
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance recommends 1) robust and affordable broadband internet service; 2) Internet-enabled devices that meet the user’s needs; 3) access to digital literacy training; 4) quality technical support; and 5) online applications and content designed to enable and encourage self-reliance, participation and collaboration.
In a recent press conference, Supervisor Cindy Chavez said, “We still need to address the existing structural inequalities in Santa Clara County in Internet access. This is why I am pleading for the creation of a consortium on the digital divide. Chavez also sees the consortium as a vehicle to ask for millions of dollars to be spent on these efforts.
Inspiring college and career students require quality high-speed internet infrastructure, connectivity programs for low-income families, computing devices, integration of educational technology, and basic literacy skills. digital for everyone in a household.
Businesses, foundations, entrepreneurs and government agencies should lead the way in both financial support and advocacy for the permanent solutions outlined for digital inclusion.
Each of us should: 1) Support HR 1631, Community Broadband Act, by contacting your US representative and AB 34 Broadband for All Act of 2022 by contacting your state assembly member; 2) Demand that Internet companies live up to their commitment to provide quality Internet connections to needy families by sending emails and letters to their offices; 3) Donate and volunteer at nonprofit agencies (sjdigitalinclusion.org) to connect families to connectivity resources; and 4) Provide direct support to families you know are trapped in the digital divide by helping them navigate low cost offers, purchase devices and find digital literacy classes.
Lisa Andrew is President and CEO of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation.