How Local Leaders are Bridging the Digital Divide and Inequities Among San Diego Students

Providing computers and internet connectivity is an important component to bridging the digital divide.
Providing computers and internet connectivity is an important component to bridging the digital divide.

“Just like food, water and shelter, internet access should be a basic right,” shared San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold, when speaking alongside partners from The San Diego Foundation and County Board of Supervisors.

Gothold was speaking at a recent press conference to announce funding for students across the County in need of devices and internet access. Last month, San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved $2 million in County of San Diego general fund money, and The San Diego Foundation committed an extra $1 million from the COVID-19 Community Response Fund, all to provide satellite and cable Internet, as well as wireless hotspots and devices for households in need. So far, the investment has helped more than 4,000 students and their families from school districts and charter schools across San Diego County, adding to the 55,000 who were previously helped by the Office of Education since the start of the pandemic.

Learn More: What is the digital divide?

But the need still remains. Gothold estimates that 45,000 children in the county still lack access to the internet or are under-connected.

Nonprofits and businesses have been hard at work this past year to bridge the digital divide since the start of the pandemic and we’ve already witnessed numerous stories of impact across the region.

As Carlos Salazar, Director of Technology and Innovation for King-Chavez Neighborhood of Schools, one of the school systems helped, shared, “from the beginning of the pandemic, we have been working hard to connect our students so that they continue to have access to high quality education and support, but the challenges persist for our families.”

Salazar shared that in one instance, a father came to his office to pick up a hotspot so that his three children could attend classes remotely. When he walked in, the father was explaining to his kids that they would need to create a plan to take turns attending classes and doing written homework because they could not all be on the internet at once.

When Salazar told the father that, in fact, each child would receive their own individual hotspot, the look of relief and joy in his face was overwhelming. He was so grateful because he knew that was a gamechanger for his children and their education. The father would not have to worry about his three kids falling behind because they lacked access to the internet.

This story mirrors that of so many other students and families across the region.

“COVID-19 did not create the inequities in our society, but it did highlight them,” shared San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. “The digital divide is more apparent now than ever. Not every child has access to internet and devices that open them to a world of opportunity.”

Since March, funds from the COVID-19 Community Response Fund have been aimed at bridging the digital divide and addressing a variety of other inequities exposed by the current health and economic crisis of the pandemic.

While there has been an overwhelming amount of generosity and togetherness during this pandemic, we know through the nonprofit application process there is more than $60 million worth of unmet needs in the community and every donation plays an important role as we get better, together.

Help San Diegans in need by donating today.