Communities working to close the digital divide amid COVID-19

Article by Tim Sandle appeared on Digital on April 12, 2020


The coronavirus situation requires new strategies and ideas. One example is with communities that are working to close the digital divide with virtual learning amid COVID-19. We look at some examples from the U.S.

The examples are examples below from the Midwest, Southeast and Texas, and each represents a different way of using digital technology to reach out and connect with people, remotely and through the use of interactive context. These examples show just how digital technology can be utilized during a time of great disruption (as with the coronavirus pandemic).

The Midwest, Columbus, OH

As schools in Ohio remain closed through to at least May 1, 2020 amid COVID-19, the Columbus Board of Education has accepted a donation of 509 wireless hotspots from the Columbus nonprofit I Know I Can, a college access group. The board also approved the purchase of 500 unlimited data plans from Verizon Wireless to help students continue learning virtually. Additionally, Columbus State University bought 600 Chromebooks and 200 iPhones (to be used as mobile Internet hot spots) to help students in need of technology for distance learning.

The Southeast, Chattanooga, TN

The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, Chattanooga 2.0 and local businesses have committed $100,000 to buy devices for students in grades 3-12. Additionally, local municipally-owned utility EPB installed 27 mobile community-based internet hot spots. EPB’s new “quick connect” wireless internet locations will be hubs set up mainly in school or church parking lots, with the goal of people driving to the access points and logging on from their cars. In addition, Tennessee Department of Education secured a partnership with the state’s PBS stations to deliver daily instructional content for Tennessee students during COVID-19 school closures, providing all students with access to daily learning opportunities right in their own homes.

Texas Greater San Marcos Region

A recent survey for parents of the school district found that 60 percent of students had Internet access to continue their education online. In response, Lockhart Independent School District partnered with Particle Communications to provide Internet service to all LISD students throughout Caldwell County. Additionally, Dripping Springs Independent School District is ensuring that students with disabilities have access to the equipment and devices they usually use at school. Special Services Department Coordinator of Assistive Technology Kellie Martini set up a drive-thru pickup station for the students who need the technology.


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