Join The NonProfit Times: or Become a member

Subscribe: Print Publication or Newsletter

Stay connected.
Stay informed.

Live From NTC: Providing Computers Doesn’t Include Access

By Mark Hrywna - March 25, 2016

SAN JOSE, CALIF. – Diana Rodriguez recently returned from vacation in Cuba, where trying to get WiFi was a challenge to say the least. Access to broadband might not be as difficult in the United States but Rodriguez said there’s still a long way to go to bridge the digital divide.

Rodriguez was among a trio of panelists who took on the topic at Thursday morning’s plenary session, “Momentum for Change: Strategies for Achieving Digital Equity,” during the Nonprofit Technology Conference (#16NTC) at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, Calif.

Rodriguez is director of digital learning and technology at the Youth Policy Institute in Los Angeles, Calif. She challenged three myths to show that there’s still a way to go in bridging the digital divide:

* Everyone can get to a computer these days. The ultimate answer is getting computers into homes because otherwise, it’s not that easy to access, with people limited to the hours of the local library or computer centers.

* The answer lies in low-cost Internet offers. “There’s no silver bullet to getting folks to adopt. It’s not about price or contract terms, it’s a much more complex issues,” she said. For some, they will be able to subscribe at a lower cost but not necessarily others. “We need organizations like yours and mine, to keep digging deep within individuals in our community, figuring out how and how to get to them,” she said.

* Once a family has Internet access and a computer at home, the job is done. “It feels like the work you put in has been defeated,” Rodriguez said, when you follow up with a family after hours of training classes and finally getting them a computer but a virus has been downloaded or some other obstacle that leads it to not being used in months. “What kind of economic system can you set up for these folks so that once they adopt Internet service and computers at home, they have a full range of services to support and sustain it so it becomes a long-term behavior,” Rodriguez said.

When starting or re-evaluating digital inclusion programming, Rodriguez offered four key elements for nonprofits: Know who you’re serving; Know their needs; Know who else is serving them and reach out; and, Work together to devise a plan.

“I had better service in Sub-Saharan Africa than I did in my hometown,” said Connie Stewart. She is executive director at the California Center for Rural Policy (CCRP) at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., about seven hours north of San Jose and within 100 miles of the Oregon border. Communication is a fundamental human right not a luxury, she argued.

To those who suggest that rural residents just move to gain better broadband access, Stewart counters that those who live in urban areas — where food isn’t grown — should move. “It’s not just, you can’t watch Netflix tonight because some yahoo with a backhoe cut a fiber optic line,” she said. When Internet access is knocked out, banks close, retailers accept cash only, hospitals can’t send X-rays, and airlines can’t check-in passengers.

“One size does not fit all when it comes to bridging the rural digital divide,” Stewart said. “You can’t do a lot of things if your technology is not symmetrical.”

Broadband speeds have the power to impact the economy, what kids can do in school and what can be done medically. Low speeds mean that “you don’t want to talk to us, you just want to send your message,” Stewart said.

Many tribal lands in California don’t qualify for federal broadband dollars, Stewart said, and one-third of people who are not online in the United States are located on tribal lands.

“Use your voice in technology to help those of us, not only get money to continue deployment in the U.S. and the world, and work to get higher speeds and symmetrical service,” Stewart told attendees.

“How do we take these grand ideas and turn them into reality at grassroots level,” said Martin Wolske, The Center for Digital Inclusion at the University of Illinois. “This momentum for change doesn’t come from things,” he said. When admiring art, people don’t say, “Isn’t it amazing how that paint made such beautiful art,” Wolske said. Different tools can help achieve different goals: A smart phone is something different when using it for research versus talking to a family member, Wolske said.


Sponsored Podcasts

Welcome to the Raise & Engage podcast, a filters-off series for nonprofit professionals hosted by Blackbaud's straight-shooting expert Danielle Johnson Vermenton. During this open-mic session, you’ll hear honest advice to help YOU do more for your cause.

Episode 6: The Power of ‘No’ at Work|| daniellejohnson-76

You have a job description, but on any given day, you're probably doing dozens of things outside the scope of that description. Combine that with the challenge of a fast-paced environment and the shifting priorities of funders, colleagues, and board members and it’s easy to fall short of doing your best. By being mindful of your limitations and capacity—and saying “no” when your plate is full—you can actually do more for your cause. In the sixth installment of the Raise and Engage podcast Danielle Johnson and Robin Anderson discuss the power of saying “no” at work.

Episode 5: Professional Development: Getting Un-Stuck|| daniellejohnson-76

In the most recent episode of Raise + Engage, Danielle is back with Brian Reich from little m media to discuss how nonprofit professionals can stay motivated and energized in their day-to-day roles. Brian shares his experience working with nonprofits and the lessons and tips he's learn from and shared with them over the years, including tips for avoiding a professional rut, creating forward momentum in your career and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. If you're considering making a career move or want to ensure you're on the right path, you won't want to miss this inspo-packed episode!

Episode 4: Apps and Hacks to Stay (Mostly) Sane || daniellejohnson-76

Episode 4: Apps and Hacks to Stay (Mostly) Sane, is all about tips, tricks and tools for sanity. Blackbaud’s own interactive product marketer, Julia Lenz, joins host Danielle Johnson to share some high tech. (and no tech.) productivity tips to help nonprofit professionals stay sane in the crazy world of philanthropy.

Tune in to hear:

  • Tips for how to spend the first 30 minutes of your day
  • The benefits of 15 minute meetings
  • Why notebooks are still relevant to a successful organization
  • Ideas for better managing your inbox
  • Why you should take lunch outside the box
  • ...and much more!
Don’t forget to visit the #NoFilterNonprofit Hub afterwards to download our newest tip sheet10 Productivity Hacks for Nonprofits.

Episode 3: Tech. Connection: Solutions, Strategy, and Staff || daniellejohnson-76

Episode 3: Tech. Connection: Solutions, Strategy, and Staff In episode 3 of the Raise + Engage podcast, Danielle Johnson is joined by Chris Geady and William DaSilva, two IT experts in the nonprofit space, to talk technology integration for NPOs: when you need it, when you don’t, and how to do it successfully.

Tune in to hear:

  • When to say NO to integration
  • How to set your strategic plan before even looking at technologies
  • Ways to get your entire team on board
  • The importance of identifying a project lead
  • The RFP process - how it should and should not go
And William shares a story about a nonprofit that may or may not have still been using a typewriter. You don't want to miss this one!

Episode 2: From Socially Awkward to Socially Awesome! || daniellejohnson-76

According to Danielle Johnson, straight-shooting host of the Raise + Engage podcast series, if your staff members aren’t the number one advocates for your cause on social media, you’re failing. In the most recent episode, Danielle is joined by Blackbaud’s own social media guru Madeline Turner to discuss overcoming social struggles and creating a social ambassador program at your organization. This entertaining and insightful duo dishes on the importance of making your social media presence human, making the case for a formal social program to leadership, how University of Michigan turned a one time social media campaign into a long term social program, and how Madeline's mom unknowingly became a social ambassador on #GivingTuesday.

Episode 1: Corporate Culture & Development: Shake It Up! || daniellejohnson-76

In the premiere episode of Raise & Engage, Danielle is joined by three straight-shooting nonprofit rock-stars: Jodi Smith of Sanford Health Systems, Veronica Brown of Chicago Public Library Foundation and Ali Burke of Southlake Regional Health Centre Foundation. The group talks organizational culture, problem employees, why its important to celebrate and how to shake things up this year and build a better more authentic team that gets stuff done!


Stay informed, catch latest trends in the nonprofit space.

Subscribe to Our Free Newsletter

No obligation, unsubscribe at anytime.

Success! Check your email inbox.

Follow Us On Twitter

NPT 2016 Buyers' Guide

Newsletter Sign-up

click here to return to the previous page