Oakland, CA – Less than 24 hours after OUSD, the City of Oakland, and partner organizations held a news conference to announce an ambitious plan to close the digital divide by raising $12.5m to pay for technology and internet access for all Oakland students to have at home, Twitter CEO and Co-Founder, Jack Dorsey, announced he is supporting the effort with a $10 million donation. In one fell swoop, he gave the campaign most of the funds it was originally aiming to raise.
“What an incredible and incredibly generous gift,” exclaimed Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “Jack Dorsey leads one of the most consequential technology firms in the world, so he understands well the need for our young people to have access to a computer and the internet at home. Students open to a limitless world of information at school and at home, and becoming more adept at using technology, is what we all want. We thank Jack Dorsey for joining the effort to make that a reality for all young people in Oakland.”
This morning, Dorsey tweeted, “$10mm to give EVERY single child in Oakland access to a laptop and internet in their homes, closing the digital divide. Heard Mayor @LibbySchaaf and @OUSDNews’ call and funding immediately. Thank you!”
Mayor Schaaf responded on Twitter by saying, “Wow. Thank you @jack and all those joining us on the mission to close Oakland's digital divide for good. #OaklandUndivided”
After the leaders of this campaign, including Tech Exchange, worked feverishly to raise the first $2 million, they were left humbled by Dorsey’s donation. “This is a truly extraordinary response to our call to action. Jack Dorsey's generous contribution will close home access gaps for Oakland's students in a systemic way,” said Seth Hubbert, Executive Director of Tech Exchange.
During Thursday’s press conference, Skyline High School junior, Jessica Ramos spoke about her experiences not having technology at home, and how it made her life significantly more challenging. "This COVID-19 affected me and my family because we could not afford the internet,” she said. “My family did not have the internet, and I could not finish my work, which lowered my grades and I missed some deadlines to finish my scholarship applications. While I was lucky enough to be able to get technology... I realized I am not alone. Many of my peers from Deep East and West Oakland do not have access to technology resources and the impact on their academics and future is big." Ramos received a computer from her school, and our partner, Comcast, supplied her with internet access.
The Oakland Public Education Fund, which is facilitating all the donations, knows well what $10 million will mean for our students. “Having a computer and internet access empowers our children to thrive academically during this pandemic and beyond, and boosts economic and health outcomes for their families,” said Ali Medina, Interim Executive Director. “The Oakland Public Education Fund is proud to be a leading partner on the #OaklandUndivided campaign and we are so excited about what this donation means for kids across Oakland.”
It’s unclear how quickly this $10 million will be turned into technology for students to use at home because the shelter in place has created supply chain problems, which have delayed some deliveries by months. But importantly, most students who now have at home one of the 18,000 computers loaned out by their schools will be able to keep them through the summer. Rising 5th and 8th graders will have to return their devices to the schools, as will graduating seniors.