Nearly 25 percent of D.C.’s public school students live below the poverty line and 50 percent are considered at risk for academic failure.
Mayor Muriel Bowser has announced a $3.3 million investment to provide home internet to low-income students.
This means free internet access for up to 25,000 disconnected low-income families from public and charter schools.
The Office of the Chief Technology is also working on the post-COVID future to bridge the digital divide in the District. Lindsay Parker who runs IT for the city is focusing on a four-point plan that includes internet service, device access, demystifying technology, and making the workforce more tech-savvy.
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“What COVID has sort of prioritized in my mind is that we can only be smarter if we are more connected. So we have really wrapped our smart city initiatives together with our inclusivity initiatives and merged them into Text Together DC which is sort of a four-point plan that serves to prioritize things that we think we need in order to make sure that every single resident in Washington D.C is able to get online,” Parker says.
In all, the school system says, it will spend more than $12 million on technology and services this year.
A recent city survey found that more than half of residents lacked adequate technology at home.
Census numbers tell us that about 50,000 households in D.C do not have regular internet connectivity.
The local government is not asking residents to go anywhere to pick anything up or sign up. If you are eligible the city will reach out to you.
“We have a list of eligible households that receive SNAP or TANF benefits from the city that have school-age children at home, and we are messaging to that group. So we started yesterday, we sent text messages out at 3 pm. Robocalls today at 3 pm for those who didn’t respond to the text messages and emails tomorrow at 3 pm,” Parker adds.
When schools in the District closed in March, a third of families in the public school system needed technology. By June, the school system had distributed 10,000 tablets and laptops and 4,000 hotspots.