Setting the example and marching towards digital inclusion

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“There are lots of kids who don’t have access to computers – and that’s not fair! What are we going to do about it?” – Asked a 12-year-old girl in the town of Davidson, North Carolina.

Her inquiry instigated the actions of multiple stakeholders in the community, from the Davidson College president to the town’s Mayor. Together with the town’s citizens, they created an organization that works towards digital inclusion named E2D, Eliminate the Digital Divide. This was a pressing matter that had a profound effect on the education of the town’s children:

“Statistics provided by the NC Department of Public Instruction backed up her supposition. Kids considered to be in “non-economically disadvantaged” families pass their year end of-grade exams at a rate of 95%+, whereas students who are defined as “economically disadvantaged” – read: behind the digital divide – pass at a rate of only 59%.” E2D

From the perceptive inquiry by the 12-year-old, which took place in October 2014, to August 2015, E2D made sure that every school-aged child’s home was equipped with a computer and broadband access. The E2D model went on to win the national prize of Most Innovative Program in the Digital Inclusion Awards, hosted by Google Fiber, Next Century Cities and National League of Cities.

The whole community’s engagement is setting the example in the fight to reduce the digital divide in what the broadband advocacy group Next Century Cities describes E2D as a “self-contained, self-sustainable, scalable and relevant model”, involving student fund raising, donations of refurbished computers by a local retailer and affordable monthly rates for low-income families.

The E2D program and the other winners1 of the first Digital Inclusion Leadership Award have plenty of recommendations and experience to share.

1Other winners: Keyspot (Philadelphia, PA), TMF Program (Seattle, WA), Unlocking the Connection (Austin, TX), Tech goes home (Chattanooga, TN) and Mobile Tech Lab (Washington, DC).

Additional sources: Charlotte Observer, Next Century Cities, E2D, Benton, Digital Inclusion Awards