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How The Channel Can Help Bridge The Digital Divide Among Students

‘Twenty-five percent of [students in NYC] live in communities where the broadband access is either poor or non-existent and you see that in large cities and in rural communities around the United States that the availability of broadband is just not wide enough for everyone to have equal access to this incredibly important tool,’ says Pace University’s Dr. Jonathan Hill.

With everyone working at home, download speeds in the largest cities have dropped dramatically.

Dr. Jonathan Hill, dean of the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems at Pace University in New York City, in an interview with CRN discusses the digital divide within our communities — now heightened amid the coronavirus crisis.

“As always, we are seeing that those who are getting infected with the virus are often in very crowded, underserved communities, either urban communities or rural communities, and it's the same thing that tracks with broadband access,” said Hill.

There are more than a million students in the NYC school system, the largest school district in the United States, according to the the New York City Department of Education.

Hill told CRN, “Twenty-five percent of them live in communities where the broadband access is either poor or non-existent and you see that in large cities and in rural communities around the United States that the availability of broadband is just not wide enough for everyone to have equal access to this incredibly important tool.”

“I think one of the really miraculous things is that the internet infrastructure in this country has stood up to this heavy, heavy demand, but there are two large percentage of young people [being impacted]: they may be kindergarten students, or they may be graduate students at a university who don't have the tool, the basic tool that they need to successfully complete their studies,” he added.

How Can The Channel Help?

Luis Alvarez, president and CEO of Alvarez Technology Group, a Salinas, Calif.-based managed service provider, said the company has taken on the role of helping students in its area at no charge “just making sure that they can get the school work done that they need to get done and that they don’t miss out.”

The digital divide that exists today is a “significant issue,” said Alvarez.

“In fact, one of our clients is a small rural city in Monterey County and when the stay-in-place order came they knew that all these kids that had access to the internet in school, in college, and in community college, were now going to be faced to work-from-home, and many of those homes didn't have any internet access,” Alvarez told CRN.

Which is why, together with the school district and a cable provider, they built hotspots in parks throughout the city.

“So these kids could show up, do their school work, hopefully the weather will cooperate, and have access to the internet,” he said.

Preparing The Next-Gen Of Tech Talent

“We at the university level are preparing the next generation of technology workers and the wonderful thing about working with college students and graduate students today is that this is a very idealistic generation,” said Hill. “They really do care about using their skills not necessarily to become the next .com-millionaire, they want to make the change in society.”

He said his students understand that there is still a digital divide “that there are ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ who have access to the best technology tools, but that too many of their peers and too many younger K-12 students don't have access to the technology they need to be successful students today.”

Head over to CRNtv to learn more about the inequalities around this digital divide, especially during this time of quarantine.

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