Verizon recently released the movie Without a Net: The Digital Divide in America. It does a spectacular job of explaining the digital divide as it pertains to schools and our young people. The film starts with hardware, moves through the issues related to connectivity, and explains the need for teacher training. This is a must-see for anyone interested in better understanding the digital divide, and especially important for people who believe that we no longer have a digital divide. The issue is not simple, and the need to be online couldn’t be more necessary.
“Without technology they are doomed,” was a line in the movie, and indeed they (the students) are doomed. If young people aren’t given a chance to learn technology or have meaningful access to it, they will be stuck with limited opportunities. Those young people grow into adults and start families, and they still lack the skill and access. This lack will continue to hold them back, and their children too.
While this film shows the effect of the digital divide on young people, we see this daily in the work we do with adults and seniors who struggle to understand how to use technology. Our challenges aren’t much different from what’s outlined in the movie, but we have the additional challenge of working with an incredibly diverse group of people who have their own barriers to overcome. Many can’t afford the internet at home or a device to access it. If they have a device, it is probably a smartphone that they may not understand how to use safely or independently. When required to do something complex like apply for a job online or download a form to complete, they simply don’t have the skill to do it without help.
We completely understand these challenges and empathize. Imagine how frustrating it must feel to lack the skill and technology access you know will help you and your family get ahead. CTN has been fortunate enough to develop several partnerships that are allowing us to make a difference in people’s lives. CTN and Twitter have worked together for several years to provide digital literacy training in both English and Spanish at their NeighborNest in San Francisco. Last spring we created this video that highlights the success of a learner who was able to get a job because of her newly developed computer skills. Twitter recently gave us a matching grant for this program. Please consider donating by the end of October so your gift can be doubled.
I personally want to thank Verizon and the filmmaker for making this film to help educate and to inspire us to do more to make a difference. Learn more about their project at digitaldivide.com.