Y Donor Won’t Let the Digital Divide Widen
During the best of times, there is a digital divide. In a pandemic, the gap widens.
This technology gap splits higher income families from lower income families. “Roughly three-in-ten adults with household incomes below $30,000 a year (29%) don’t own a smartphone,” write Monica Anderson and Madhumitha Kumar for the Pew Research Center. “More than four-in-ten don’t have home broadband services (44%) or a traditional computer (46%). And a majority of lower-income Americans are not tablet owners. By comparison, each of these technologies is nearly ubiquitous among adults in households earning $100,000 or more a year.”
Lower income families who can predominantly rely on a single device for digital access, typically a smartphone. These families are forced to use these smaller screens for a multitude of tasks, including applying for jobs. “The disparity in online access is also apparent in what has been called the ‘homework gap’ – the gap between school-age children who have access to high-speed internet at home and those who don’t,” continue Anderson and Kumar. “In 2015, 35% of lower-income households with school-age children did not have a broadband internet connection at home, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.”
Today, during the pandemic, not only homework, but all schoolwork is on-line. During the early days of the crisis, in late March, the United States scrambled to get children everywhere to safety. For the children of families of essential workforce members, that meant safe childcare centers. Education was almost an afterthought in the immediacy of the situation, as no one knew how long it would last. But as time has progressed, the need for digital access for kids became crucial.
The South Shore YMCA is operating two such state-designated emergency childcare centers, in Hanover and North Quincy, welcoming up to 80 kids per day. Many came with school work assignments but without digital devices on which to accomplish them. The childcare centers, early learning centers geared for the care and education of infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers and kindergarteners, did not have the devices needed by school-age children in this situation. The homework gap was widening.
Enter Sage Sustainable Electronics of Columbus, Ohio. When contacted by Y staff members about the issue, Sage vowed to help. Sharing the problem with a potential donor, Sage secured the donation of ten laptop computers for use by children of essential workforce employees. “The YMCA is doing such important work by helping out essential workers and children in need during this global crisis. Sage’s GoodTogether program is very excited to support that cause. Everyone deserves access to reliable technology,” said Lila Appaya, GoodTogether Partnership Coordinator for Sage.
“The YMCA is one of our most important charitable relationships,” said Jill Vaské, Sage’s President. “Together, we are working with the YMCA Van Buren Center in Columbus on an exciting new initiative: the Sage TechBank for the YMCA. It will facilitate donations of useful technology to the Y from anyone in the community. Sage’s process includes data sanitization and cleaning, turning a used device into a like-new experience for the recipient.”
The news of the donation of the computers immediately sounded through the halls of the childcare centers, bringing smiles to the faces of teachers and parents alike. “This is amazing, and so many of the families will be so appreciative that we will be able to help their kids with their schoolwork,” said Kristine Swan, Vice President of Youth Development for the South Shore YMCA.
“This is going to be so helpful, as our numbers are continuing to rise with a large number of school age children,” said Sarah Cowan, overseeing the North Quincy childcare center. The computers were deployed to the centers in the first few days of May, and changes instantly occurred. Kids who had been previously shut out from their classes caught up with their classmates.
And so, thanks to Sage Sustainable Electronics and their anonymous donor, the digital homework gap incrementally began to close on the South Shore.
To donate to the South Shore YMCA during this crisis, contact Mary Orne, firstname.lastname@example.org, 781-264-9453, or visit ssymca.org/covid19support to support the challenge through a tax-deductible donation.
About the South Shore YMCA
The South Shore YMCA is a leading charitable organization dedicated to strengthening community. Since 1892, the Y has served communities across the South Shore of Massachusetts and beyond, engaging over 60,000 adults, children, families and seniors each day through membership, critical social services, and programs that support a healthy spirit, mind and body. The Y empowers everyone by ensuring access to resources, relationships and opportunities for all to learn, grow and thrive. By bringing together people from all backgrounds, the Y’s goal is to improve overall health and well-being, ignite youth empowerment and demonstrate the importance of connections throughout our community. To learn more about the South Shore YMCA and our causes, visit ssymca.org. The Better You Belongs Here.