The cost of digital exclusion is enormous. Without access to technology and connectivity, full participation in nearly every aspect of American society – from economic success and educational achievement, to positive health outcomes and civic engagement – is compromised.
Nearly 55,000 households in Davidson County need assistance to enter the digital age, according to Connected Nation. Students within Metro Nashville schools lack access – nearly 44% of students don’t have access to computers or connectivity at home. This lack of access is a wall that seals off too many people from the digital understanding that will carry many of us into the next decade.
Making access more affordable and available for our community’s citizens through an efficient and well-run, multi-partner program and system, respectful of use dignity and the public/private resources, is a fundamental tool in the fight to break the cycle of poverty. Just as our parents needed sewers, roads and electricity, our kids need an infrastructure redefined to include connectivity.
The Nashville Digital Inclusion Fund (NDIF) provides a shared funding vehicle to introduce families and individuals to the tools they need to succeed now and in the future.
Through the generosity of partners like Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the James Stephen Turner Family Foundation, Dell, Google Fiber and Comcast South, the Fund seeks to service youth, New Americans, unemployed or underemployed Nashvillians, seniors, and the medically fragile, and other communities in need.
The work is done through the diligent work of community programs including the Metro Housing & Development Agency’s ConnectHome program, Metro Nashville Public Schools’ Anytime Access for All program, and the Nashville Public Library’s digital literacy initiatives.
Interested organizations can make a difference though a cash donation or through large-scale donation of outdated computer equipment items, which are converted into like-new, warranted devices.
Refurbished devices are then provided to families who lack connectivity and technological access and have completed a training regimen.
Through continued contributions and community engagement, additional devices, training and internet service will be available to those who need them, and thus make technological access more affordable and available for our community citizens.
Program success thus far:
- We have trained more than 1,000 families, who each received a laptop to keep.
- The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee is soliciting additional outdated computers from employers for conversion into the Fund.
- We ran a successful pilot at 18th Avenue Family Enrichment Center by providing them with 15 child-friendly Kindles loaded with programs endorsed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
- On the heels of the successful pilot at 18th Avenue Family Enrichment Center, the Nashville Digital Inclusion Fund is providing three dozen additional child-friendly tablets to Fannie Battle and McNeilly Center so they can replicate 18th Avenue Family Enrichment Center’s success, helping additional underserved children enter the digital age. These devices will also be loaded with age-appropriate educational programs.
- At the request of MDHA and its ConnectHome initiative, the Fund has recently purchased an additional 185 tablets, which were to be delivered in April 2017 for 185 low-income seniors living in MDHA’s Gernert Studio Apartments.
- Finally, also at the request of MDHA, $10,500 in “Opportunity Cards” from Comcast will be distributed to pay for three months of connectivity for 350 MDHA residents.