According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) more than 60 million Americans lack the digital literacy skills needed to take advantage of the resources and services found on the internet. Further, thousands of families are shut out from the educational, health and employment benefits afforded by having broadband access in their homes. We believe that failing to acknowledge the effects that this digital divide has on our local communities, particularly the children, means that we fail to recognize our own role in the future of our global society.
As part of our effort to close the digital divide, human-I-T partnered with HUD, the Housing Authority of the City of LA (HACLA) and others to join 28 other U.S. cities in the Obama administration’s ConnectHome pilot program. Our goal was simple and three-fold:
- To make low-cost home broadband connections available to low-income children, grades K-12, in Los Angeles County.
- To ensure that this access was relevant by providing free training in essential digital literacy skills to allow them to effectively utilize their technology.
- To create sustainable broadband internet adoption in the communities by providing the necessary devices and the technical support to maintain the connections.
On May 7, 2016 we concluded our 6-part ConnectHome pilot program in Rancho San Pedro. Through the help of our staff, volunteers and partners we donated refurbished computers and are providing ongoing technical support to 519 households (across Los Angeles County). As successful as we believe this effort has been, the need to continue donating to those in need is as apparent as ever. The requests for more outreach pour in, and we continue to look for ways to bring these opportunities into the homes of our neighbors and their children.
For many of us, connection to the internet is not only a standard part of our daily lives, but in large part, a necessity. From time-to-time, we fantasize about “unplugging” from our online responsibilities, and challenge ourselves to 24-hour or weekend-long “tech breaks”. In the end, our desire for personal knowledge, professional growth, continuing education and a general connection with our friends, families and colleagues drives us back to the internet. We challenge you to remember this “thirst” the next time that you are replacing your old technology. How will you help bridge the digital divide in your community?