The past year has made the digital divide that has existed for years glaringly apparent. When individuals and families cannot access online resources and services, they lose out on education, social support, human services, healthcare, and job opportunities. From families of our littlest learners who need early intervention and preschool special education to high school graduates who are pursuing post-secondary education and entering the workforce, it is imperative that we close the digital divide. That is why ROC the Future Conveners and backbone staff have been working to ensure all children in PK-12 have age-appropriate devices and access to the internet.
Now we are setting our sights beyond the immediate crisis to long-term, systemic solutions. RtF’s Director of Research & Analytics, Dr. Stephanie Townsend, is serving as a community advisor to the Monroe County Broadband Task Force. The task force is charged with assessing internet services in low income and rural areas of Monroe County, with a goal of finding concrete solutions that will close service gaps and eliminate barriers to access. This work is critical so Rochester and Monroe County are ready to compete for state and federal infrastructure grants and opportunities. Meanwhile, RtF partners like the Rochester City School District, Rochester Public Libraries, and others continue to distribute devices, offer public internet access, and provide digital literacy training and assistance.