Often low-income families, particularly families of color, do not have a computer or an internet connection at home. For example, according to the American Communities Survey for 2015, 47% of low-income Oakland young people didn’t have access to a computer at home.
However, according to the Federal Communications Commission, 70% of high school teachers assign homework requiring online connectivity. In what has sometimes been called the “Homework Gap” students without connectivity at home are faced with an enormous challenge as they are unable to complete their homework, and also they can’t go online at home to search for jobs, apply to college and for financial aid, or easily access the valuable information they need to succeed in school and life.
Digital Inclusion Solution: For the last three years, to help address this problem, the East Bay Broadband Consortium has partnered with Tech Exchange to provide the Digital Inclusion Solution in Oakland and throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
Through 70 Tech Fairs last year co-sponsored by schools and community organizations, more than 2,800 low income families in the two counties received a free refurbished computer and free digital literacy training and tech support.
Now, building on this success, a new partnership has been established between Sprint, the Oakland Unified School District, and Tech Exchange to close the digital divide and the homework gap for thousands of Oakland high school students who will receive the equipment and connectivity they need to complete their schoolwork from home.
Sprint 1Million Project: Through its 1Million Project, Sprint is distributing 1 million hotspot devices across the country over the next five years. Each Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) student participating in the 1Million Project will receive either a free smartphone, tablet, or hotspot device and 3GB of high-speed LTE data per month for up to four years while they are in high school. Unlimited data is available at 2G speeds if usage exceeds 3GB in a month. Those who receive a smartphone can use it as a hotspot.
“This is an exciting opportunity to demonstrate how business and education can work together to help close the digital divide,” according to Suehyun “Johan” Chung, Northern California Regional President for Sprint. “We are hopeful that the 1Million Project helps to bring greater opportunity to students and families in the Oakland Unified School District and across the country.”
Tech Exchange Distributions: As the implementation partner for Sprint and OUSD, Tech Exchange is organizing and staffing distribution events at 18 OUSD high schools to put hotspot devices into the hands of OUSD students who lack home internet access. Through a coordinated approach with OUSD, Sprint, the Get Connected Oakland collaborative, EBBC, and community partners, Tech Exchange will be distributing 3,200 devices this year and continue with distributions of comparable size for the next 4 years.
Tech Exchange Executive Director, Seth Hubbert, has stated that “Tech Exchange has already achieved a lot working to close the digital divide that exists for low-income Oakland students. Now we are honored and excited to partner with Sprint and OUSD on the 1Million Project, which will reach thousands of additional students this year and for the next 4 years after that.”
“We all know how challenging homework can be in the best of circumstances, but here in the 21st century, that daily task can be exponentially more difficult for students without internet access at home,” asserted OUSD Superintendent, Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “We deeply appreciate Sprint and Tech Exchange for coming through with this amazing donation of internet access for thousands of our students. It will go a long way to helping them achieve the success they richly deserve.”
Hopefully, the Homework Gap will soon be a thing of the past in Oakland.