How businesses can close the digital divide
In its community development role the KC Fed traditionally has raised awareness of issues, convened stakeholders to find solutions and educated banks and community organizations on funding needs and opportunities. Recognizing its role as a community anchor with more than 1,900 employees, the KC Fed is exploring additional ways it can help close the digital divide.
Increasing Access and Knowledge
During a recent forum, Jeremy Hegle, a senior community development advisor at the Bank, announced a pilot program to divert 25 of the Bank’s obsolete computers from its current computer recycling contract to Connecting For Good, a community organization that provides low-cost computers to individuals of low-to-moderate-incomes and organizations that serve them.
Children learn new skills at the Juniper Gardens computer lab, in Kansas City, KS. Connecting For Good supports the lab, which also provides a safe place to gather after school.
Hegle also introduced a volunteer effort headed by the KC Fed’s Community Involvement Program. The employee-led initiative will support Literacy KC, a community organization that provides basic computer literacy training. KC Fed employee volunteers will assist students one-on-one in a computer lab, aid students during computer classes and instruct classes on such topics as computer basics, Microsoft Office and using email.
Why Digital Inclusion Matters
“Ninety-five percent of students today report needing to use the internet to do their homework,” Hegle said. “What happens when they don’t have computers or internet? They’re immediately put at a disadvantage. We also know that teaching people computer basics can be a significant boost to their employability skills. So I began thinking of our role in the digital divide as an employer, as a business. I challenged our Bank leadership to consider some innovative ways we can help close the digital divide. They saw it as a no brainer; neither of these initiatives bear any real cost to the KC Fed. Great solutions can result from just getting people together for some creative thinking and problem solving. “
Hegle said he hopes these initiatives will serve as a model for other employers to follow and explore additional ways they can support the community.