As the West Michigan population grows, so does the digital divide

As the West Michigan population grows, so does the digital divide
July 15, 2019 Comprenew
tyler grhc comprenew connect

Technology is ever-changing and evolving. As technology advances, the ability to access the internet has become increasingly important. Bills are paid online, work collaboration is done via the Cloud, and students are completing their homework through online portals. However, not everyone in the Grand Rapids community has the resources they need to be a part of this growing technology-based world, specifically the youth of Grand Rapids.

25 percent of students attending Grand Rapids Public School district do not have a computer in their home.1 This becomes a cause of concern, as 70 percent of American teachers assign homework that needs to be done online. Not only does access to a home computer allow students to complete tasks requiring internet connectivity, but it also sets students up to take better advantage of online resources, such as researching further education or job searching. This lack of computer access for some Grand Rapids students creates a digital divide.

The digital divide refers to the growing gap between those who have access to technology and those who do not. The largest disparities exist among minority races and low-income households, and can have a lasting impact on marginalized communities. According to a report by ACT Center for Equity in Learning, “inequitable access to electronic devices and effective internet connections contributes to opportunity, achievement, and equity gaps in education.”

How do we combat this lack of access to technology in our communities? Some organizations throughout the United States have turned to equipping families with computers and internet access. However, this multifaceted issue cannot be solved by just one approach. For this reason, Comprenew not only equips families with technology in the home, but also gives families the skills needed to be able to use the provided technology. This is done through a program called Comprenew Connect.

Comprenew Connect is a computer literacy class aimed at helping members of our community learn how to operate computer technology in addition to acquiring a home computer. The goal of this program is to close the digital divide and set families up for success. Comprenew Connect is free to participants and builds confidence and technical skills. Those that qualify have an opportunity to receive a discounted or free warrantied computer from a Comprenew store upon completion of the class. Taught using an online training program under the supervision of an instructor, the program includes training in Microsoft Word and Excel, email correspondence, and internet navigation. Since the inception of Comprenew Connect in 2015, Comprenew has been able to equip over 600 members of the West Michigan community with basic computer literacy skills and affordable technology. In partnership with West Michigan nonprofits, churches, and local businesses Comprenew plans to expand the Comprenew Connect program to dozens more organizations in the next year. Anyone interested in hosting or participating in classes should contact Erin Donnelly, at 616-988-8282 or edonnelly@comprenew.org.

1 Tripod Student Survey conducted by Grand Rapids Public School district in November 2016

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