Pi515 has been working to ensure that Des Moines students have access to the resources they need to succeed, but the digital gap remains large.
In March of 2021 Pi515 received news that we would be the recipients of 300 hotspot devices from the AT&T and Connected Nation Homework Gap program. After handing out so many laptops over the years, it was finally time to ensure our students could actually connect to the internet at home. Discovering, years ago, that one of our students was using her Pi515 laptop in the parking lot of a public library, after hours, just to get Wi-Fi was the breaking point for our Executive Director, Nancy Mwirotsi. This, and the generous donation of hotspots led to the creation of a summer digital inclusion campaign.
"We're grateful that AT&T and Connected Nation are providing Pi515 students with hotspot Internet services and devices,” said Senator Janet Petersen of Des Moines. “Every student deserves access to the internet at home, and we’re working hard to make that happen. This program is helping to fill one of the gaps, getting rid of a financial barrier, so more Pi515 students have access to technology and opportunities to get ahead in life."
Over the past few months, Pi515 started a digital inclusion campaign across central Iowa by providing internet access to households with students in grades K-12. Connecting people to the internet was the first step in this campaign. Through a partnership with Google Fiber, Pi515 also worked hard to bring awareness to the importance of good digital literacy resources being available to students and adults in our community. We believe in promoting digital literacy and providing resources to create an opportunity to learn basic technology skills. Pi515 wants to empower students and families to use the internet in a safe and secure way and close the digital gap.
According to BroadBandNow, an organization collecting data on internet access nationwide, Iowa ranks 45th in accessible internet connectability. Iowa also has the second slowest internet speeds on average. While this gap is not new, the pandemic has heightened these challenges -- most acutely in rural and under-resourced neighborhoods, where the effects disproportionately impact 1 in 3 students of color. Whether students are learning remotely or in the classroom, having access to affordable high-speed internet and devices is non-negotiable for successful learning outcomes.
To us it meant tackling these things:
- Lack of accessibility to technology and internet
- Affordability of technology and internet
- Lack of digital literacy skills
- Safety and security when using technology and internet
“Every student deserves access to the internet at home, and we’re working hard to make that happen. This program is helping to fill one of the gaps, getting rid of a financial barrier, so more Pi515 students have access to technology and opportunities to get ahead in life." -Nancy Mwirotsi, Pi515 Executive Director
Checkout this video from our digital inclusion event at Grand View University, created by PI515 intern, Ferdinand Alobo:
Pi515 was able to hold its first digital inclusion event at Grand View University in Des Moines. Our team was joined by volunteers from Sogeti, Palmer Group, TMC, Dwolla, Bank of the West and more, allowing us to connect hundreds of students to the internet via a hotspot- provided free for one year by AT&T and Connected Nation. Every recipient received a digital literacy crash course and hotspot tutorial before taking the devices home!
We are Iowa featured a digital inclusion story on the event, you can checkout here:
In partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Cedar Valley, Pi515 was able to travel to Waterloo for another digital inclusion event. Qualifying students were able to receive a book bag full of school supplies and a hotspot for internet access. This event was so much fun, featuring live music and food for the volunteers and participants. We are grateful to have had this opportunity to expand our campaign outside of the Des Moines area and provide students with the resources that they need to succeed.
Thanks to our friends in Cedar Rapids, we were able to expand our digital inclusion efforts even further. The African American Museum of Iowa and the Iowa Intercultural Center were recipients of hotspots for their students in need via Pi515, as well.
To say we have been busy is an understatement. Thanks to an amazing group of sponsors, volunteers, and community members, we have been able to begin our journey to close the digital gap. However this work is more than over. We believe every household should be connected to the internet and that digital literacy skills are critical to student success. Pi515 is looking forward to the next steps of our digital inclusion campaign.
Thank you to our sponsors and volunteers for making the Summer 2021 Pi515 Digital Inclusion Campaign possible.
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