By Nancy Dahlberg
The digital divide continues to keep opportunities from far too many for far too long. This partnership may help and needs support.
In 2015 Miami was the second worst Internet-connected city in the United States, FIU’s Metropolitan Center found, and it hasn’t budged from that status since. A study published last year by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance found that 29% of the city’s households don’t have internet connectivity at all – ranking second worst in the country among large cities and 9th overall – and nearly 39% lacked broadband in their homes.
Despite the city’s and county’s progress toward establishing the region as an emerging tech hub, the digital divide continues to keep educational and tech career opportunities from too many of our residents, and it's not confined to Miami. More than one in five Miami-Dade County households - about 220,000 families - don’t have internet connectivity at home, according U.S. Census data. In the NDIA findings, Hialeah and Miami Gardens also showed high percentages of families without access to the internet.
A new public-private partnership that will be announced today aims to change this reality.
The Miami Foundation and Achieve Miami will announce the launch of “Miami Connected” at 11:30 a.m. today. It’s stated goal: bringing free broadband connectivity, digital literacy and tec career opportunities to 100,000 +students and their families in Miami-Dade County.
The public-private partnership includes: Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) Supherintendent Alberto M. Carvalho, City of Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, philanthropist and Citadel Founder and CEO Ken Griffin, The Children’s Trust, the Miami Foundation, philanthropist and Achieve Miami Founder Leslie Miller Saiontz, eMerge Americas, TD Bank facilitated by the Miami HEAT, and Code.org.
Miami Connected will kick off by providing two years of free broadband internet service to 22,000 eligible M-DCPS households in Overtown, Little Haiti, Liberty City and Homestead. Phase Two will expand on a school-by-school basis to 68,000 additional students in under-resourced communities where home internet access is severely limited or does not exist.
It follows on an initial $5 million investment in CARES Act funding from Miami-Dade County that was used to purchase devices for Miami-Dade County Public School students last fall. The expansion of free internet access will allow M-DCPS students to use their new laptops to complete schoolwork at home. “One year after we were forced to temporarily shut down the physical schoolhouse, it is evident that this pandemic has negatively impacted under-resourced neighborhoods much more than others in our community. With 52 percent of M-DCPS students engaging in online learning and the remaining 48 percent in the classroom still heavily relying on consistent broadband access to achieve educational success, high-quality home internet has become a necessity for our region’s young learners,” said Superintendent of Schools Alberto M. Carvalho, in a statement.
In addition to providing free internet service:
- A Miami Connected community advisory group will execute grant programs aimed at teaching students and their families digital literacy skills.
- Miami Connected will also issue startup grants to help innovators develop new technologies that could help close the digital divide.
- The final phase of the project will identify long-term, cost effective strategies to maintain broadband internet for all students in need in Miami-Dade.
“In order to be the most technologically inclusive city in the nation, we must ensure that all children and families have access to the internet and digital literacy tools, and we must foster highly inclusive workplaces that reflect the diversity of our incredible region,” said Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, president and CEO of The Miami Foundation, in a statement. “This bold collaboration is a massive step in that direction.”
The program has received $11 million in funding so far, including CARES Act funding and a $5 million matching grant from Griffin, who helped lead a similar effort last year in Chicago.
How to help
To help 100,000 students and their families, Miami Connected is seeking additional support. Individuals and entities wishing to donate to the effort can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 305-204-6184. The need is huge.
Families in need of Internet services at home can submit their contact information at Miami Connected website.
The announcement event will be broadcast at 11:30 a.m. on Facebook here.
Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter and email her at email@example.com