Consider sitting around the board-room table on this one:
“Students in low-income neighborhoods don’t have internet. We need to help out somehow.”
“These kids… they ride buses, right?”
“Yes. For at least fifteen minutes, but—”
“That’s it! WiFi the buses. Problem solved.”
Close only works in horseshoes
I’ll give them that the digital divide is a tricky fish to fry. On one hand, it seems like wiring up a school bus might be the answer, but there’s so much more to this problem than just providing a signal. In fact, most students already have a signal thanks to the smartphones the majority of Americans carry these days.
Answering digital inequity is more about building a complete infrastructure. WiFi routers on dashboards is kind of like putting stoplights on sidewalks. It could help, but not until something else is put in place first. For the sidewalks, it’s going to take hoverboards and scooters. For buses, it’s going to take students bringing large-screen devices, such as laptops, with them during their commute.
But the other reason this strikes me as funny is: when have you ever seen a middle-schooler voluntarily doing homework on the bus? I know mine would rather play War Robots or Minecraft than do schoolwork. Especially when there are friends hanging over the seat in front of him!
And then there’s me, running alongside the bus trying to finish my email.
Other ways to help bridge the divide
And why buses? Why not link up lamp posts or fire hydrants instead? Bus stops might make more sense for the students who aren’t spending the majority of their time on the buses. It’d be better for them to sit at a bench near their home than hope to finish whatever project or assignment they have in between stoplights.
You know, stoplights are a fairly ubiquitous fixture in urban areas. And there’s plenty of room in their housing to hold a router now that most of them are LEDs. But signal isn’t the only factor. As I hinted at in the subhead: there are other ways to bridge the divide, like providing large-screen devices or supporting new users with tech advice and guidance.
How, you ask? Well, the devices themselves are actually the easy part. We work with businesses who retire hundreds of laptops, tablets, and PCs at a time. Our proprietary program completely erases the data, reinstalls Windows OS, cleans the devices inside and out, and repackages them for a like-new experience.
We even warranty these devices to give future users the best service available. It helps, too that we are a Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (MAR), which adds a standard of quality that we strive to exceed with every product we handle. Powerful devices given a second life for users who might not be able to afford their own devices.
Combine these devices with a router mounted on the back of a stop sign or mailbox and say goodbye to the divide. And even that is something that some communities are taking into their own hands. The digital divide is real. The longer it exists, the more it will become a life-threatening situation. As more and more organizations and programs take to the web, fundamental things like voting, healthcare, and job-searches will be unavailable to those without access—and the devices to work with.
Next stop, Technology Ave and High
Outfitting buses with WiFi is like most of the Christmas gifts I give my wife: it’s the thought that counts (unless it’s done with the right support…). The real intersection of this technology with the community who needs it is in businesses donating their end-of-life devices to a greater cause. Without those devices, these students will be wasting a good signal on Minecraft and Instagram. And, before you turn your nose up, just remember: those are the kids who will carry your business in the future.
To learn more about our donation program called GoodTogether, visit our information page here. We take the hassle out of making this contribution because we see a good home for computers and tablet as the most sustainable way to solve the digital inequity problem.