In the digital age, IT is the backbone of the modern organization. As critical as it is, it’s complex, and honestly, not everyone’s dominant skill set. Nobody knows that better than us writers. We can pull drafts of inspirational stories together in a matter of minutes fueled by nothing but a bottle of Dr. Pepper, but if our computers go down… oh boy. It’s not good (especially hyped up on all that Dr. Pepper). I remember once when I was in college I was desperate enough to hand-write an essay on a NOTEPAD, which I later transferred to a Microsoft Word doc. I felt like I was in the stone ages. But, I digress.
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?
Presented by AvidXchange Foundation, Written by Amy Andrews
The CMS Foundation is the official fundraising non-profit partner for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. Their mission is to raise funds and strategically invest them within CMS to make a district-wide impact.
According to Foundation Manager Ashelyn James, “we work directly with district leaders to understand their strategy, seeding innovation or expanding and accelerating things within the district.” She added, “we work in lock step with CMS on strategic needs and to help where public dollars might not be able to do so at the same speed and scale.”
Presented by AvidXchange Foundation, Written by Amy Andrews
E2D (Eliminate the Digital Divide) is a non-profit focused ensuring that all students have affordable access to essential at-home technology and digital literacy training to support academic success and prepare students for college, careers, and beyond.
“COVID brought the topic of the digital divide to the forefront, but it has always been there and is exactly what we’ve been helping families address since 2013,” shared Christy Cowan, Community Outreach Coordinator for E2D. She added, “Our focus remains on the important work of getting laptops donated, refurbished and out into the community. That didn’t stop for us with COVID.”
Project Scientist was the catalyst for Aida to choose biomedical engineering as her field of study at UNC Charlotte. Project Scientist has middle schooler, Bennett, conducting all kinds of environmental experiments at home. These are two of thousands of girls whose STEM interests have been piqued thanks to Project Scientist, known for its programs that challenge the status quo by exposing girls, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, and now location to quality programming centered around science, technology, engineering and math.
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.
“I didn’t want to be just a person getting by, I wanted to LIVE and also show my children that it’s a part of life - that the harder you work, you can make things better for yourself,” former Charlotte Family Housing (CFH) Client and now Board Member, Lamont, reflects.
Thanks to CFH’s partnership with Goodwill Career Center, Lamont participated in a 12-week training program for HVAC repair and now has his own business and owns his own home.
Did you know that approximately 552,830 people in the United States are homeless? As of 2018, NC alone had an estimated homeless population of 9,268. And those numbers are pre-pandemic, which has increased housing instability across the nation.
Started in 2017, Hope Vibes was originally founded in response to the need of homeless women in the Charlotte area not having access to feminine hygiene products. They helped provide basic hygiene needs to the homeless population in the Charlotte metro area by collecting items from the local community to pass out on the streets and in shelters. All this in addition to raising awareness of the homeless crisis through public speaking opportunities at K-12 schools, universities, and other local platforms.
Dignity matters. For people moving through homelessness, it can be the key to restoring health, housing, and stability. That's why dignity is at the heart of Project Outpour's mission. The Charlotte-based nonprofit provides shower access to men and women moving through homelessness, alleviating suffering and promoting holistic health and dignity.
"Being and feeling clean gives people a sense of dignity," says Laura Gorecki, Project Outpour's Chief Dignity Officer. "It gives the confidence to walk into public spaces, to seek assistance, to go on a job interview." Shower access also has practical physical and mental health benefits, relieving social alienation and preventing infections and other medical issues.
Like so many organizations, the past year has looked dramatically different for local nonprofit RunningWorks. This Charlotte-based organization has a keen focus on stopping the destructive cycle of homelessness through its values-led, mentorship-driven programming.
RunningWorks was established in 2012 and promotes volunteerism as a key component of rehabilitation as it promotes dignity and purpose for team members who are struggling through hard times. The goal is to foster self-improvement over the long term through the development of discipline, confidence, team-work and self-respect.
We have so much great news to share from our nonprofit partners about their amazing work. But, we'd love to hear from you. Let us know if you have stories you'd like to tell and we'll make you a guest blogger!!