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A Turning Point: 3 things you can do to close the digital divide

An outside force changed the course of education in the 50's. It's about to happen again. You can help steer that change.

CLEVELAND — There is a wide gulf in Cleveland, expanding at lightning speed. Its eventual impact will affect every one of us.

The gulf is the digital divide.

Thousands of children in Cleveland schools, who for many reasons, are excluded from the internet and WiFi. The problem is more pronounced in this pandemic time where schooling is virtual at home, because the school building is closed.

But if there is no WiFi or little digital access at home, the student is already behind in education.

The 21st century is a changed world from the one in which I grew up. When I was in Cleveland schools, the system was hailed as one of the best big city districts in the nation. Before the age of computers, the school supplied textbooks and other supplies I needed were in abundance.

But today’s computer world is far different. Add to that, the pandemic.

Education has been rocked-- an outside event can do that.

When I was in Cleveland Schools, an outside event – although not nearly as severe as the pandemic – hit my generation. The Soviet Union launched the world's first satellite into earth orbit.  The United States lagged woefully behind in the space race.  America, playing catch-up, pushed more science on us kids that eventually our classrooms became filled with science courses.  An outside event changed education.

Today’s outside event is the pandemic. It is pushing kids whose school buildings are closed to find WiFi and the digital world in their virtual learning at home.

But Cleveland is the 4th least connected city in the nation. The base problem is poverty. One-fourth of all Cuyahoga County households have no home-based broadband access.

Local libraries and community organizations help with digital literacy training, but are not enough.

So, question: what can you do to close the digital divide?

Three things:

  •  Donate a laptop or desktop computer for a student who needs one. WKYC is spearheading a computers for kids drive. Personal computers are being accepted through Friday, September 4th. There is more information here.  
  • Take a stand on OH HB 13 which, if passed, would allocate money for improving internet access only in rural areas. Contact your state legislators now to urge the bill be amended so urban areas like Cleveland would also receive funding.
  • Make a financial donation to the digital equity, which is a collaboration of the Cleveland Foundation, Cuyahoga County and T-mobile. Donate online here. These are demanding times. All students need to be able to get to the new world waiting for them if they are able to log on to it.

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