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Bridging the Digital Divide

Bridging the Digital Divide
Today, most U.S. students are expected to use technology at home, but millions don’t have access to computers or internet and risk falling behind in their education. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic put a spotlight on this crisis known as the Digital Divide, revealing the millions of K-12 students who are unable to navigate distance learning. These children face long-term social, academic, emotional and economic challenges as a result.

The Need
In Arizona, 30% of students lack high-speed internet access and 20% do not have access to appropriate devices.These inequities in education have been exacerbated by Covid-19, creating an urgent need to give kids equal access to technology for remote learning. In our state alone, thousands of kids have vanished from the school system because their teachers cannot contact them remotely. We feel called to do something to help address this crisis!

The Vision
Together with the City of Phoenix and School Connect, a local non-profit, SBC is helping close the Digital Divide in Phoenix by providing 9,640 laptops.

  • In December, we presented the need to our SBC family to raise $1 million to purchase 5,265 laptops at $190 each for students in every City of Phoenix school district that reported a need.  
  • The City of Phoenix agreed to purchase the additional 4,375 laptops needed in these districts using CARES Act funding.
  • Our plan is to begin distributing the purchased laptops to each district in early March. These districts will check out laptops to students so they can do homework and participate in distance learning as needed.
  • SBC and the City of Phoenix will reach out to businesses to help provide high-speed internet service for kids in these districts. We have learned that the internet is not a luxury, but an essential utility that facilitates health, learning and equity.

The Results
We are grateful to God that our SBC community responded to this vision and generously gave $1 million above and beyond normal year-end giving to meet this need. All the laptops are now on order and being manufactured. They will be shipped at the end of January, allowing us to work with School Connect to begin delivering them to the school districts in early March.

Every laptop purchased will enable a K-12 student to further their education using the technology they need.  By achieving this goal and responding to this staggering need in our city, thousands of kids will have a chance to complete their schoolwork and achieve academic success. We are also building a unique partnership with our city government and public school system in a way that hasn’t been done before and pray God will use these relationships to offer hope and to impact the lives and future of Arizona’s next generation.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Don’t our tax dollars pay for computer resources for students in the public school system? 
A: Yes, property taxes do fund schools, but this means that some districts have larger amounts of funding than others. For schools with high poverty rates, the needs of students and their families outweigh the funding that is available. When COVID-19 hit, a large number of schools in the City of Phoenix did not have computers for every child and the families of these kids were also without internet. This revealed a “digital divide” where wealthier students and families had the means to buy computers and internet, but poorer students and families did not. Because of this, the most vulnerable students in our community are in danger of falling further behind.

Q: How does a student qualify to get a laptop? 
A:
Schools know which students need computers and will check them out to those who do not have one.

Q: Who owns the laptops and how will they keep track of them? 
A:
The laptops are being delivered directly to the school districts and they will be owned by the schools. Students/parents will check them out to be used at home and return them at the end of the school year. This enables school districts to install security updates and provide tech support.

Q: What security measures or filters are installed on each laptop? 
A:
The school districts will install the security system they use onto each laptop before they are given out to students.

Q: What if we give kids a computer but they don’t have access to Wi-Fi?
A:
Although we are aware of both needs, we are focusing our efforts on providing laptops and are in conversation with other non-profits, businesses, and churches about ways to meet the need for internet access. City leaders and school districts are also working with companies to provide hotpots and affordable service. Currently, students who qualify can receive a hotspot for $35 and data with a modem for $9.95 a month from Cox Communications though their Connect2Compete program. If you or your business want to learn more about ways to participate, please contact Shannon Cox, our Local Outreach Director, at scox@scottsdalebible.com or 480.824.7243.

Q: If I have a used device or modem, can I donate it?
A:
You can learn more about donating devices here.