SHARE Charlotte is proud to be partnering with AvidXchange for the first ever Tech Rising Virtual Summit on February 25th. This event will provide a virtual space to bring together local government officials, public school representatives, business leaders, nonprofits and members of the community all who are playing a key part in bridging the digital divide right here in Charlotte.
We had the opportunity to ask Michael Praeger, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of AvidXchange, some of our most questions surrounding the digital divide and their role in creating more equity in technology.
Why is the digital divide such a serious issue in our community?
There are 80 different Title 1 schools in Mecklenburg County with many students that have limited access to resources like laptops, internet and technology education. For these students, it’s challenging to succeed in school under normal circumstances – even more so while learning virtually.
The impact felt by Charlotte youth without technology resources will extend far beyond whether they can complete this school year, affecting their access to future opportunities in higher education or employment. To support economic mobility in our city, we have to provide students with the technology and education they need early in life, helping to break down these barriers long before they apply for their first job or begin filling out a college application.
What is the mission of AvidXchange Foundation and why was it important for AvidXchange to help bridge the digital divide here in Charlotte?
The AvidXchange Foundation was founded in 2005 in response to helping elementary school children impacted by hurricane Katrina. It continued to grow from there, taking on the mission of positively impacting the lives of youth in the communities where AvidXchange employees live and work. Last year in the wake of COVID-19, we realized that supporting digital equity in Charlotte was more important than ever as businesses and schools all shifted to operating remotely. This ultimately led to the inception of AvidXchange Tech Rising to help put technology into the hands of those who need it most and bridge the growing divide within our community between those who have access to technology and those who do not.
In the first six months of the initiative, we’ve formed partnerships with more than 23 different organizations, including SHARE Charlotte, in support of AvidXchange Tech Rising. Using technology to address the digital divide that exists in our own city is critical and it starts with business leaders, local government, public schools, and nonprofits all coming together to solve the challenge.
How are AvidXchange employees engaging in helping to bridge the digital divide?
Employees play a critical role in AvidXchange Tech Rising, particularly as volunteers during the events we host with our non-profit partners. Employees helped distribute nearly 2,000 laptops to local students in partnership with E2D (“Eliminate the Digital Divide”), participated in a 3D printing camp with Code Ninjas and the Dottie Rose Foundation to benefit Levine Children’s Hospital, and put together STEAM kits for students in conjunction with Digi-Bridge, just to name a few.
What does AvidXchange hope to accomplish through the Tech Rising Initiative?
Ultimately our goal is to support economic mobility in Charlotte by helping to close the digital divide that exists in our city. Over the next three years, AvidXchange and its corporate partners have committed to distributing refurbished laptops with internet access to 5,000 students, working with 16,000 students in Title I middle schools to provide STEAM curriculum and helping 8,000 students in Title I high schools develop critical career skills.
What is being asked of corporate partners who are part of Tech Rising?
Our corporate partners have committed to working with us to address the three legs of digital equity: devices, internet access and digital literacy. As the program has evolved, we’ve also asked them to donate used laptops and support specific events like the CMS Foundation’s fund drive to purchase hot spots for students. Participating in the AvidXchange Tech Rising Virtual Summit is the next step in furthering our mission by creating a space for leaders to come together to solve this challenge in our community, with a goal to provide equal access to technology and opportunity for our youth.
Be sure to check out this month’s #SpotlightOnCLT: Bridging the Digital Divide, brought to you by AvidXchange Foundation, to meet our local nonprofit partners doing critical work in our community to make technology accessible for all.