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For many, the digital landscape remains just out of reach, casting shadows of missed opportunities and untapped potential. This is the digital divide, a crisis that Human-I-T has been tirelessly working to overcome for over a decade.

Hosted at our community retail space on 7 Mile Road in the heart of Detroit during Digital Inclusion Week, the Technically Speaking Workshop was a product of an Ally Financial Sponsorship to support Human-I-T’s ongoing mission and Ally Financials’ “Bridging the Digital Divide” program, which you can read more about here.

As we delve into the details of this particular event, it’s essential to remember that it’s but a single chapter in the broader narrative of our commitment to ensuring everyone, irrespective of their background, has the tools and knowledge to thrive in our digital age. 

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A Deep Dive into the Technically Speaking Workshop

On October 5, the doors of Human-I-T on 7 Mile opened wide to welcome a group of eager young adults to learn about the myriad of roles available to them in the technology sector. 

Of course, this wasn’t just a Human-I-T initiative. In continuation with their mission to cultivate digital equity, Ally Financial provided Human-I-T with a sponsorship to support a Ally Technology led “Bridging the Digital Divide” program. This partnership underscored the commitment of both organizations to drive digital inclusion and ensure that the benefits of technology are accessible to all.

As the day unfolded, participants were in for a transformative experience, one that would provide them with insights, knowledge, and the tools to navigate the limitless opportunities available to them online. But this was just the beginning.

From Digital Gift Cards to Tech Talks

On the day of the event, the atmosphere at Human-I-T on 7 Mile was electric, filled with the hum of conversations, the clinking of glasses, and the shared anticipation of what lay ahead. 

As participants settled in, they were greeted with a pleasant surprise. A total of 10 attendees were handed $150 gift cards, a gesture that went beyond its monetary value. 

These cards could be redeemed towards the price of new or refurbished devices to ensure they could affordably access the tools they need to access opportunities online. And, by providing them with a one-year warranty and technical support from Human-I-T, we guaranteed that they would be able to quickly recover and resume using their devices should any problems come up.

Adjacent to the main hall, Ally Financial had set up a booth, shining a spotlight on the myriad of advancement opportunities they offered. From the Ally Job Board to the Ally Tech Talent Community, it was evident that Ally wanted to remind Detroiters that they are more than just a financial institution: they are a partner in the journey towards building a more inclusive, digitally equitable society. 

But the pièce de résistance of the day was the “Technically Speaking Host Site.” Over the course of one evening, Tech SMEs from Ally Financial took the stage, sharing their insights, experiences, and guidance on various roles in the tech sector. Their stories, filled with challenges, triumphs, and lessons, resonated deeply with the audience, painting a vivid picture of the possibilities that lay ahead.

As the day came to a close, it was evident that this was not just an event, but a movement. A movement towards a more inclusive, digitally empowered future. And as we reflect on the day’s events, it’s essential to understand the broader context, the driving force behind such initiatives. 

Ally Financial’s Blueprint for Bridging the Digital Divide

In today’s digital age, access to technology is as fundamental as access to food, housing, and electricity. It’s a basic need that determines one’s ability to function and thrive in society. But, as we peel back the layers, we find that not everyone is afforded this essential access. This disparity, known as the digital divide, is a chasm that separates those with access to technology from those without, creating a gap in opportunities and potential.

Gartner defines the Digital Divide as the gap experienced by those with limited accessibility to technology, especially the internet. This gap can manifest in various forms, from cultural and physical barriers to economic and educational challenges. A significant aspect of this divide is the lack of access to reliable, high-speed internet. The ripple effects of this divide are profound, impacting individuals, communities, and society at large.

One of the most glaring manifestations of the Digital Divide is its reinforcement of racial inequity. Studies have shown that nearly half of Americans without at-home internet belong to Black and Hispanic households. The digital redlining phenomenon, where investments in high-speed internet are prioritized in wealthier neighborhoods, leaving poorer communities with subpar service, mirrors the historical redlining practices that marginalized certain communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic further magnified the Digital Divide. With 90% of Americans relying on the internet to navigate the pandemic, the disparity in broadband availability became even more evident. The shift to online learning posed challenges for students without reliable internet access, and the limited capability of healthcare centers to provide telemedicine further exacerbated the divide.

But amidst these challenges, there’s a beacon of hope. Ally Financial, recognizing the gravity of the situation, has taken significant strides to bridge this divide. At the core of Ally’s ethos is the belief in their social responsibility to make a positive impact. Their Bridging the Digital Divide (BDD) program is a testament to this commitment. Through this program, Ally has donated thousands of refurbished computers, partnered with organizations like Human-I-T, and initiated hiring drives to uplift underrepresented populations in STEM fields.

In 2021, Ally’s BDD program took off with the donation of 2,250 refurbished computers to organizations, including Detroit-based Human-I-T. They also collaborated with Goodwill Industries to offer learning opportunities to IT training program graduates. By 2022, the program had expanded its reach, distributing close to 3,000 refurbished devices and partnering with organizations like E2D and Journi to empower the youth.

Ally’s approach to addressing the Digital Divide is multifaceted, focusing on internal alignment, external partnerships, volunteerism, and continuous refinement. While the journey to bridge Detroit’s digital divide is a marathon and not a sprint, with concerted efforts from organizations like Ally and the broader community, we can envision a future where equitable access to technology and the internet are a reality for all.

Overlooking the Digital Horizon

The importance of ensuring equitable access to technology cannot be overstated. The Technically Speaking Workshop was more than just an event; it was a testament to the power of community, collaboration, and a shared commitment to bridging the digital divide.

The stories shared, the knowledge imparted, and the resources provided during the workshop are but a glimpse into the broader movement towards digital equity. As we reflect on the journey so far, we’re filled with gratitude for our partners, collaborators, and the community that has stood by us. But this is just the beginning. 

The road ahead is long, and the challenges are many. Yet, with the collective spirit of optimism, hope, and collaboration with trusted partners like Ally Financial, we believe we can create a world where everyone has access to the digital tools, connectivity, and support they need to unlock their full potential. 

Lo Terry

About Lo Terry