More than 60 million people across the United States aren’t connected to the Internet. Here in Madison, 14,000 households do not have home Internet access. One-third of people report needing more skills to understand and use technology.
With that in mind, DANEnet is hosting National Digital Inclusion Week events this week as part of a national push to bridge the digital divide. DANEnet is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that has served Dane County nonprofit organizations since 1995 by offering on-site technical support, technical training, and technical planning and consulting services. Digital Inclusion Week is an opportunity to raise awareness about digital inequities and nationwide efforts to close those gaps.
“National Digital Inclusion Week is an opportunity for folks all over the country to highlight their work to increase digital inclusion in the community,” DANEnet Executive Director Alyssa Kenny tells Madison365. “DaneNet has been doing this type of work for many, many years but recently we started this Everyone On Madison initiative and so we’ve been giving out low-cost computers and digital literacy centers at community centers and senior centers across the city.”
Since the Everyone On Madison program’s inception in September of 2016, over 100 low-income households have taken home computers and over 200 households are now connected to the Internet. Everyone On Madison is on target to reach 1,000 households by the end of 2018. The computers are donated by Cuna Mutual Group, Old National Bank and American Family. Cascade Asset Management, a local recycler and refurbisher, supports the project by through refurbishing the devices and providing a hardware warranty.
Digital Inclusion Week kicks off today. The schedule of events is as follows.
☆ Tuesday, May 9 – Computer Deployment Day
6-8 PM | Literacy Network, 701 Dane St
☆ Wednesday, May 10 – Computer Fix IT Clinic
5-8 PM. | Madison Public Library, Bubbler, 201 West Mifflin
Public and Media Welcome
☆ Friday, May 12 – Computer Deployment Day
9-10:30 AM|Madison College – South Campus
☆ Friday, May 12 – Virtual panel discussion for #DigitalInclusion Week!
Noon | https://www.youtube.com/c/AustinFreeNet/live
☆ Saturday, May 13- Madison Mini Maker Faire
10 AM – 5:00 | Monona Terrace
Ticketed event, DANEnet will be doing technology education all day
Throughout the week across the nation, organizations will host digital inclusion events (i.e. free technology trainings, device donation drives, etc.) and share digital stories that highlight specific inequities and the role digital inclusion providers play in meeting these needs. Digital inclusion is important because when people get connectivity and devices paired with the skills and support to fully utilize them, they are more likely to have increased access to education, employment opportunities, social networks, health information, banking services, leisure pursuits and civic participation.
“The biggest event we are doing this week is the Fix-It Clinic,” Kenney says. “It’s a lovely opportunity for families or households or adults that have computers that aren’t working quite the way they want to bring them in and get some free tech support from volunteers to help make their devices operable. Or if they just need advice on how to use their technology or have questions, we can answer that, too.”
“Digital Inclusion” refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). This includes 5 elements: 1) affordable, robust broadband internet service; 2) internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user; 3) access to digital literacy training; 4) quality technical support; and 5) applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation and collaboration.
“Technology is pervasive. It’s in everything. People who have access to technology have better access to education, employment, social networks, financial services, finding out information about their kid’s school, getting their homework done. It’s just so pervasive now,” Kenney says. “If families don’t have access to technology now they are missing out. The Everyone On national organization estimates that home computer and home connectivity saves families about $3,000 a year. It saves quite a bit of time, too. It also builds your social networks and connects you to opportunities.”
DANEnet partners with community agencies to provide technology and other science education to groups that might not have access to such opportunities, in addition to the tech assistance that they give. DANEnet is committed to helping to close the digital divide in Dane County, believing that technology, connectivity and the skills to use both are part of a quality of life that all should be able to enjoy.
“We are always looking for more tech-savvy volunteers at our fix-it clinics and more companies that are willing to donate computers and other technology to get the devices to people who need them,” Kenney says. “They are really making a difference in this city.”