Tech From the Heart: Connecting Those Who Are Underserved in the Era of the Digital Age
By Joyce Mullen / 14 Jun 2021
By Joyce Mullen / 14 Jun 2021
In the spring of 2020, many families faced this setback when schools across the nation shut down. Across the board, schools were searching for ways to create an online learning environment that delivered a high-quality student experience. On the flip side, families were also hoping to find an affordable remote solution quickly. Even libraries and coffee shops closed at the beginning of the pandemic. The fact is, roughly 15% of school-age children lack a high-speed connection at home. The digital divide is a crippling reality for many in historically underserved communities.
Fortunately, government relief programs like the CARES Act, and the latest COVID-19 relief package, the American Rescue Plan, made critical sources of funding available, which really helped communities connect to broadband internet. Relief funding has given a much-needed boost to help schools purchase devices for underserved students and accelerate communitywide efforts to lay a foundation for public broadband connectivity.
Insight is proud to help solve this problem by delivering a secure community wireless broadband solution that provides reliable, affordable internet connectivity to rural counties, cities and schools.
A Texas county nestled in the south of the state received a golden ticket — allocated relief funds from the federal government’s CARES Act. Hidalgo county is home to more than 850,000 people with several collegiate institutions and school districts. Yet, despite being one of the fastest growing counties in the U.S., Hidalgo is ranked among the poorest, with roughly one-third of families living below the poverty line, according to a recent census report. This funding prompted the local school districts to search for pockets within the community where students had limited or no access to the internet.
And that’s where the story gets interesting. To aid Hidalgo county and its respective community, Insight proposed a solution for designing, implementing and rolling out a free public internet access Wi-Fi network across several precincts. Insight is also providing the county with three years of ongoing support services to respond to issues as they arise and maintain the network for peak performance.
Now, the Texas county can provide free Wi-Fi access to more than 30,000 students and teleworkers. The network design has built-in safety and compliance features to ensure user and business data and privacy are protected, as if they're working on a private network.
In the City of Tucson, more than 32,000 of the 212,000 households lack reliable internet access. This number can be attributed to high poverty levels, infrastructure limitations and the ongoing effects of the pandemic. Thousands of students and teleworkers in Tucson face the challenges of unreliable access at both work and school.
By also leveraging relief funding for a city Wi-Fi expansion plan, Tucson partnered with Insight Public Sector to implement a community wireless program. This brought the infrastructure needed to make essential broadband internet access available to the city’s population most impacted by the digital divide.
Even before the pandemic, our collective dependence on internet connectivity was undeniable. Today, access to the internet is considered a basic, human right and a requirement to succeed in work, school and life. After learning about how Insight uses its technology capabilities to make a difference in our communities, I hope you’re inspired to explore more solutions resolving issues like the digital divide.