This guidebook centers on discount internet offers; however, it is important to note that a robust and reliable internet connection is only one part of the digital inclusion formula. People also need an appropriate device that connects to the internet and they need digital skills. These are all components of digital inclusion. As defined by NDIA, “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).”36
Access to Reliable and Appropriate Devices
Access to devices that connect individuals to the internet remain a barrier for one’s ability to fully participate in an online environment. Many communities provide access to the internet via desktops/laptops in public spaces such as libraries or community centers; however, many of those spaces operate during typical business hours, which may be when a person is at their own workplace. Interviewees stated that it is necessary for individuals to have access to affordable and updated devices that give them the ability to connect to the internet 24-hours a day.
The Office of Performance Improvement and Innovation in Louisville, Kentucky, leveraged local partnerships in order to get devices in the hands of those community members who did not have access to devices. They successfully reached out to local banks and corporations in their community to obtain 500 computers that could be given to those who do not have access to computers at home. These computers were then refurbished by a computer science class at a local high school. Following the refurbishment process, some of the students were then able to take home the computers they refurbished and the remaining devices were distributed to public housing residents and refugee families in Louisville.
In order to provide members of the community access to devices in their homes, Vanderbilt University donated 3400 used desktops to the Community Foundation of Middle TN’s Digital Inclusion Fund. The foundation partnered with an equipment recycler who returned a refurbished laptop for every two desktops they received. These laptops were then distributed to children and families within the local community through initiatives such as “Anytime Access for All” and “ConnectHome Nashville.” This was all possible by leveraging local partnerships. It must also be noted that the majority of the practitioners state that laptops are the best devices to provide to families because they are mobile and can fit within anyone’s home.
Digital Literacy Programs
The last piece to the connectedness puzzle is having skills to access the internet. Many practitioners involved in the creation of this guidebook stated that digital literacy classes are an integral part of their efforts to sustain a digitally inclusive community. These digital literacy classes cater to the various needs of the community, which include technology camps for children, introductory device use/internet use, internet safety, as well as specialized classes hosted by local school systems concerning how one can stay updated with their student’s education.
The Fresno Housing Authority has several digital literacy classes in which they partner with other organizations, including summer technology camps for children that center on coding, learning about tech jobs, building computers, video games and even robotics. One of the strongest aspects of this program is the housing authority’s attention to lessening the access barriers by providing transportation and food for those participating in the programs. The Fresno Housing Authority partners with the Fresno State University and local technology trade schools for assistance with teaching classes.