16
Sun, Jun

Delete the Divide

Tech

Los Angeles County’s digital inclusion program’s goal is that everyone is connected to the Internet.

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By Tracey Edwards

Based on data from the U.S. census, it’s estimated that in Los Angeles County there are over 400,000 households that do not have an Internet subscription and about 265,000 households that do not have a home computer.  To combat this issue, Los Angeles County’s Delete the Divide program was created to advance digital equity in underserved communities.

“It’s based on the premise that everything that we need to delete the digital divide is already in existence,” said Selwyn Hollins, director of the County of Los Angeles Internal Services Department.  “We know what the problems are, we know where the problems are, and what is it going to take to make that change.  Instead of planning and more studies, and saying that we need to bridge the divide, let’s just get rid of it and leverage all the resources.”

In many of the households that do not have Internet or computers, there can easily be three or more people living in those homes, all who do not have Internet access on a daily basis.  Minority communities tend to have a higher rate of people without Internet access.

“When you use the census track data from mapping, this is a problem throughout Los Angeles County, but the highest concentrations are in historically disadvantaged communities that are predominantly Black, Latino, and some Asian communities,” Hollins said.  “What Delete the Divide does is that we primarily focus on census tracks within Los Angeles County where 20 percent or more of the households do not have Internet service.”

Many people have Internet access through their home and work computers, and also through their cellular phones, so they may not realize how big of a problem this is.  

“The reason why this gets overlooked and it’s not a priority is because you can’t see it,” Hollins said.  “We can see homelessness.  We can see blight.  We can see unemployment in many ways.  We can see people who need health care.  But people don’t see the Internet.  So it’s taken for granted that so many people do not have it.”

To fully function in today’s society, people have to be plugged into the Internet just to do basic tasks.  

“I don’t know too many places where you can walk in the door and ask for a job application anymore,” Hollins said.  “But it goes beyond that.  There are people who have to go to hearings for court dates.  The courts approached us during COVID and said that a lot of the affluent or middle class people would handle their court business online.  But those in underserved communities had to take time off their jobs, get transportation, pay for parking, just to meet somebody in person.  But they (courts) weren’t doing a lot of in-person meetings.

“There are all of these things that we use the Internet throughout the day.  Imagine not having the Internet for a week.  How much would that change your life.  Now think about having over 400,000 households who do not have the Internet throughout the year.  How is their quality of life, or how do they improve their lives?”

Delete the Divide is working to provide affordable and reliable high-speed Internet service options for neighborhoods impacted by the digital divide.  Delete the Divide provides free, in-person technology assistance at select Los Angeles County libraries, discounted phone services, technology training courses, certifications, and job opportunities.  

“Our goal with our interns is to launch them out into IT positions that pay at least $50,000 a year,” said Walter Tucker, manager of the intern workforce.  “We’ve done that with several of them.”

Delete the Divide has about 250 interns on staff that work for the Los Angeles County Internal Services Department.

“They’re building apps from scratch,” Tucker said.  “They’re managing websites.  They’re managing social media and coordinating events.  They’re doing outreach with constituents.”

Delete the Divide also gives away free laptops to households, schools, and community service programs in need.  

For more information about Delete the Divide, visit www.deletethedivide.org