BY MARIA MENDEZ RODRIGUEZ
Thanks to a Digital Equity Grant from the City of Colorado Springs, Catholic Charities of Central Colorado will be one of seven grantees who are embarking on a digital equity project. Set to launch on August 31st at Hillside Community Center, our Digital Equity Program (DEP) aims to close the digital divide in our community, focusing on southeast Colorado Springs.
What is the digital divide?
According to the National Digitial Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), the digital divide is the gap between those who have access to affordable internet, key computer skills, and support needed to engage online, and those who do not.
In Colorado, an estimated 77+% of job openings require digital skills and over 65,000 unemployed individuals lack foundational skills (NDIA). This divide gets wider when we look at marginalized communities, especially through the lens of race. The National Skills Coalition (2020) found that over one-third of Asian Americans, more than half of Latine folks, and half of Black folks have either no or limited digital skills.
When we look at the numbers for southeast Colorado Springs, the Gazette reported in 2017 that 39% of the city’s Latine population and 49% of the Black population live in southeast Colorado Springs. Additionally, the overall poverty rate for the southeast was 21% compared to 13.4% in all of Colorado Springs.
How does digital equity look and how we’re going to get there?
The Digital Equity Program at Catholic Charities hopes that our digital inclusion efforts will lead to digital equity – the condition where all individuals and communities have the digital technology needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy (NDIA). Our work will focus on increasing individuals’ basic computer and internet skills, basic word processing, and email use to increase access to internet-connected devices in order to have access to digital ways of accessing employment, housing, financial assistance, and benefits. Our traveling Chromebooks and computer labs at partnering locations will help us provide one-on-one technical support, workshops, and courses for the community. We are excited to launch with five confirmed community partners on our launch date.