BakerRipley and Verizon are teaming up for a multi-year partnership that will focus on addressing barriers to digital inclusion, ensuring that the benefits of technology are realized by everyone in our communities.
The first phase of this partnership offers remote programming, laptop devices, and hotspots that leverage internet connectivity provided by Verizon, to create access for community members.
“Fixing the digital divide has to be one of our top priorities as a city. Everyone should have access to the internet, it’s a must for our neighbors,” said Melanie Fisk, Senior Director of Adult Education at BakerRipley.
By definition, the digital divide refers to “the economic, educational, and social inequalities between those who have computers and online access and those who do not.”
Together with Verizon, our aim is to build digital resiliency among our neighbors, while creating pathways for them to enter and thrive in high demand tech careers.
Solving immediate issues
In Houston and across Texas, the digital divide greatly contributes to the inequities our neighbors face. Even more so today, as the pandemic shed light on systemic issues that have long persisted in our communities.
“From the pandemic emerged a greater need for digitally inclusive education opportunities for under-resourced communities to acquire in-demand skills for future jobs. Our partnership with BakerRipley will provide children and adults with devices, access to connectivity, and local remote learning programs to help solve the immediate issues accelerated by the pandemic,” said Darlene Brugnoli, Verizon Government Affairs.
Without access to basic technology and connectivity, our neighbors struggle to locate and access resources, connect with others, continue their education, or apply for work.
However, access is only the first step, digital literacy skills are necessary to navigate an increasingly technology-rich world. Without these skills, neighbors are left in a vulnerable spot.
A closer look at the numbers
A recent report shows that 1.8 million – about 34% – K-12 public school students in Texas do not have adequate access to the internet at home. Likewise, 25% of kids do not have a proper device like a laptop or a computer. A closer look reveals that 66% of the students who lack access are Black, Latinx, or Native American.
Meanwhile, the need for digital skills has been on the rise, especially in the workplace. In fact, 82% of middle-income jobs require digital literacy and usage – jobs that makeup 38% of all job postings.
To address these issues, the programs will focus on STEM education and basic digital literacy. Introducing young people and adults to new tools, technologies, and career opportunities.
BakerRipley will facilitate hands-on projects to teach learners new skills in after school programs and summer camps. In addition, through workforce programs, we will connect individuals to career paths that result in a living wage and prepare them for the careers of the future.
Digital equity for all
These types of partnerships will be essential to create digital equity in our communities. By combining our experience and expertise we will be able to have a greater and lasting impact.
As we look forward, our goal is to change the lives of hundreds of low-income and low-skilled Houstonians over the next four years.
Stay tuned for updates as we reveal more details about this exciting partnership.