#SpotlightOnCLT: Bridging the Digital Divide
Presented by AvidXchange Foundation
While the digital divide is nothing new, the coronavirus pandemic has served to magnify the issue. With the majority of our work, learning and even social lives moving online in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19, the digital divide for low-income and rural households both in our own backyard and around the country is more visible now than ever before.
What is the “digital divide”?
Let’s back up and start by defining this buzzworthy term “digital divide”.
Simply put, the digital divide refers to the gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the internet, and those who do not.
Like most states in the country, North Carolina lacks efficient broadband (high-speed internet) outside of larger cities and towns with almost all 100 counties in the state having rural areas with little or no broadband. Check out this map, showing the availability of broadband as reported by providers to the Federal Communications Commission for a visual of what this lack of access looks like.
What’s happening in Charlotte?
The road to internet access and digital equity has been a long-standing conversation not just on a national scale, but specifically here in our own city. As early as 2013, officials in CLT recognized the social and economic value of digital access and digital literacy for all residents to be able to fully participate in society (Alliance Digital Inclusion Playbook).
In 2015, Charlotte’s Digital Inclusion Alliance (CDIA) was created to reduce the digital divide in Mecklenburg County from 19% to 9% by 2026 by developing a digital inclusion playbook that encapsulates the work of the CDIA.
The CDIA is made up of a variety of representatives from both organizations and public entities including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Digital Charlotte, and local nonprofit E2D, to name a few.
The CDIA’s core organizing principles focused around connecting Charlotte residents with online resources, bringing together community, neighborhood, and faith leaders together with organizations working to ensure everyone has affordable broadband access in the home—as well as the resources to take advantage of it (Alliance Digital Inclusion Playbook).
Just last year, the City of Charlotte -committed to improving the quality of life for its residents through the use of technology- earmarked $3.25 million in funding from the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund to support Access Charlotte.
Access Charlotte is a range of investments to promote digital inclusion and equity across the city, including:
$1.5 million to provide the Access Charlotte Public Wi-Fi network on transit and pilot sites in select public spaces and residential areas.
$1 million to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) Foundation to provide internet connectivity to hotspots to enable remote learning for CMS students.
$750,000 used for:
Learning Labs – services that provide computers, devices and other equipment to the community.
Digital Navigators program and hotline that will help residents learn basic digital skills, find affordable computing devices, and get connected to affordable home internet.
Access Charlotte Public Wi-Fi has launched a pilot program to accelerate its commitment to reducing the digital divide with sixteen pilot sites (both residential and public) selected based on community need, housing and community partnerships, and Wi-Fi feasibility.
Residential sites will provide free internet access to almost 2,000 households. The city will continue to seek opportunities and partnerships to scale this effort in the future. Additionally, Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) will install Wi-Fi aboard all its buses and trains. Wi-Fi for CATS buses will be completed by early this year (City of Charlotte).
Find the currently active and coming soon public Wi-Fi sites here.
So, what can YOU do?
With the pandemic making access to the internet vital and necessary to attend school, hold your job, or even get the medical attention you need via telehealth, the internet is no longer considered a convenience or a luxury, it is a need (UNCC Urban Institute).
When you support the work of the nonprofits below who in a variety of ways are actively helping to close the digital divide right here in Charlotte, you are helping to fill a large and timely need in our community. Read more about these organizations and the various ways they are bridging the gap.
This month’s #SpotlightOnCLT: Bridging the Digital Divide is brought to you by our friends at AvidXchange Foundation! AvidXchange is currently leading an initiative called Tech Rising in partnership with 20+ local corporations which strives to bridge the digital divide in Charlotte through strategic engagement with the Charlotte Digital Inclusion Alliance, as well as other local government, academic and nonprofit partnerships. Learn more about Tech Rising.
A Better World
A Better World’s mission is to uplift under-served children in West Charlotte and bridge the gaps in their lives by enriching their physical, mental, and spiritual development. They aim to unite communities, parents, and schools behind the common goal of improving kids’ futures. They support student education with certified teachers, and groundbreaking computer software. Learn more and support their work, here.
Apparo transforms the community and improves lives by connecting local nonprofits to technology expertise and resources that amplify their impact. Through Apparo's work, nonprofits receive free and low-cost access to mission-enabling technical expertise and resources; corporations access brand-building and impactful skilled volunteer opportunities; and the greater Charlotte area is uplifted and strengthened, becoming a more vibrant community for all. Learn more and support their work, here.
Chicktech envisions a safe, inclusive, and innovative technology future that includes equal pay, participation, and treatment of women. They are dedicated to retaining women in the technology workforce and increasing the number of women and girls pursuing technology-based careers. Learn more and support their work, here.
City Startup Labs
City Startup Labs (CSL) is closing the entrepreneurial divide, where under-represented populations of African American millennials, as well as returning citizens (the formerly incarcerated) are not adequately participating in startup activity and business building. CSL creates this new class of entrepreneurs through its Center of Excellence for Entrepreneurial Competency, Leadership and Innovation (CoE), by providing a robust, accelerated, progressive and disciplined approach to developing entrepreneurial talent, new venture creation and deployment. Learn more and support their work, here.
Center 360 is a grassroots nonprofit organization that provides a holistic approach to career development. Their aim is to empower middle school students who are at-risk of disengaging from school by providing them with life skills training, personal development, and career enrichment activities. They create a safe space where youth can learn self-awareness and resilience, develop academic persistence, and be exposed to career opportunities in the fields of Music, Arts, Athletics, and Technology. Learn more and support their work, here.
The CMS Foundation is the official nonprofit partner for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), raising money to support the district’s highest strategic priorities. Harnessing the power of private investments in education, they seed innovative ideas and help expand programs to accelerate system-wide transformation. Learn more and support their work, here.
Digi-Bridge aims to equip shareholders with the means to foster optimal use of technology in the learning environment, ensuring that all 21st century learners have opportunities to succeed in the digital age. They provide digital classroom design consultancy, develop and deliver coursework to K-8 scholars and engage as advocates in support of digital access and opportunity. With your support, they can #bridgethedivide. Learn more and support their work, here.
Discovery Place aims to inspire curious thinkers to discover the wonders of science, technology and nature. Through a network of four hands-on museums in three different cities, educational outreach programs and professional development for pre K - 12 teachers throughout the region, Discovery Place is a leader in STEM education in the Carolinas.
They aspire to be at the forefront of transforming the way science, technology and nature are explored and learned to inspire dreams, raise aspirations and motivate people of all ages to develop a lifelong love of learning. Learn more and support their work, here.
Do Greater Foundation, Inc.
Do Greater Charlotte’s mission is to address the lack of exposure and access to creative, technological, and entrepreneurial education within underserved communities in Charlotte. Learn more and support their work, here.
Dottie Rose Foundation
At the Dottie Rose Foundation they encourage, support and educate girls who have an interest in technology and want to learn how it can be used to enhance their learning and future careers. Their camps demonstrate that most future career paths will benefit from developing a wide range of increasingly important technology and software skills. Learn more and support their work, here.
E2D’s mission is to ensure that every student has affordable and essential at-home technology and the training support to achieve academic success. Their ultimate goal is to see students in our community on a path of upward mobility through technology access, digital education training and by providing exposure to workforce development opportunities in the technology industry through their Re-Image CLT initiative. Learn more and support their work, here.
Hack & Hustle Academy
Hack & Hustle Academy is a cutting-edge STEM & Entrepreneurship academy that provides one of the most extensive lists of cutting-edge technology projects offered. Their approach is unique and transformative based on testimonials from past scholars. They are culturally relevant due to the incorporation of music/Hip Hop life lessons. Learn more and support their work, here.
INTech Foundation, Inc.
INTech’s mission is to inform and inspire girls to innovate in the technology industry. INTech informs girls about technology and how it impacts their everyday lives, inspires them with talks from women in the tech industry, and shows them how to innovate their own tech product. Learn more and support their work, here.
MeckEd’s mission is to ensure that young people in Mecklenburg County have access to an excellent public education that results in the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary to lead productive, successful lives.
MeckEd's Career Pathways program is operating 100% virtually until it is safe to meet with our students face to face. Advisors continue to provide virtual services to 160 students who have the highest needs. Learn more and support their work, here.
Open Charlotte provides a platform for civic-minded residents to engage with local government and community organizations to improve services and address challenges in our communities. They believe that government and community resources should be open, accessible and friendly to all residents. They use technology and advocacy to further this movement and increase civic engagement in Charlotte. Learn more and support their work, here.
For twenty-five years, Per Scholas has prepared motivated and curious adults who are unemployed or underemployed with the technical and business skills to launch successful careers in technology, creating onramps to businesses in need of their talents. This year, they will enroll more than 1,600 students across fourteen cities and partner with over 500 companies. Learn more and support their work, here.
Project Scientist's mission is to expose a diverse population of young girls to a high-quality STEM academy that inspires confidence in their pursuit of learning throughout the year. Their vision is to originate a diverse STEM talent pool by building confidence for over 20,000 girls by 2022. Learn more and support their work, here.
Queen City Robotics Alliance
Queen City Robotics Alliance is developing the future workforce by providing practical and hands-on STEM experiences for local youth. Learn more and support their work, here.
Raise a Child of the Carolinas
Raise a Child of the Carolinas is an organization built on the constructs of diversity and inclusion. They believe that children are the very essence of the future; who they are tomorrow is essentially the outcome of how they are raised and nurtured today. Their educational focuses are S.T.R.E.A.M (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, Math), financial literacy, entrepreneurship, college/career readiness, and health/fitness. Learn more and support their work, here.
Renaissance West Community Initiative
Renaissance West Community Initiative (RWCI's) mission is to promote a collaborative community centered on quality housing, education, health and wellness, and opportunity. RWCI opened a Pre-K through 8th grade school, Renaissance West STEAM Academy, in 2017 and jointly governs the school with Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system. Learn more and support their work, here.
Road to Hire
Our friends at Road to Hire believe hard work should be met with opportunity. Road to Hire connects under-resourced young adults with onramps to high-earning careers through paid technical training and college access. From there, they partner with top CLT employers to place graduates in entry-level career roles, largely in tech. Learn more and support their work, here.
She Built This City
She Built This City empowers women of ALL ages in the construction trade through elementary camps, Builder Girls middle school clubs & Women@Work Trade Circle mentoring & advanced training. Learn more and support their work, here.
UMBA Bright Stars, Inc.
UMBA Bright Stars-Beyond the School Day, provides excellent K-5 after school and summer camp programs that assist every child to become proficient readers and mathematics “Stars.” Their purpose is to provide a caring, loving, safe, and nurturing integrated learning environment where children strive in excellence to become the unique “Stars” that they were created to be. During the daily, weekly program, children are enriched in their learning that encompasses the mind, body, and spirit through S.T.E.A.M, Leadership, and the teaching of Core values. Learn more and support their work, here.
USA Web School
USA Web School uses the latest technology and techniques to discover what works in education and foster learning at all stages of life in our rapidly changing world. Technology Philanthropy is the philosophy that guides their efforts and shapes their programming. Learn more and support their work, here.