From the organization’s very beginnings, Tech Exchange has been focused on addressing inequities in technology, especially those inequities that impact low-income students. In the 1990’s Tech Exchange founder Bruce Buckelew helped Oakland Tech High School students to repair and keep their own personal computers, and today the organization is equipping 3,000 Bay Area students and families with free and low-cost computers on an annual basis to close the digital divide.
Thanks to a partnership and exciting initiative with Sprint, this year Tech Exchange is helping to close the digital divide for 3,200 Oakland high school students who will receive the equipment and connectivity they need to complete their schoolwork from home as part of the 1Million Project.
Seventy percent of high school teachers assign homework requiring online connectivity, yet more than five million families with school-aged students do not have internet connectivity at home. These students are faced with an enormous challenge as they are unable to complete their homework from home, search for jobs, apply to college and financial aid, or easily access the valuable information they need to succeed in school and life.
To close what has come to be termed the “homework gap,” Sprint is distributing 1 million hotspot devices across the country over the next five years. Each Oakland Unified School District student participating in the 1Million Project will receive either a free smartphone, tablet, or hotspot device and 3GB of high-speed LTE data per month for up to four years while they are in high school. Unlimited data is available at 2G speeds if usage exceeds 3GB in a month. Those who receive a smartphone can use it as a hotspot.
“Tech Exchange has been working to close the digital divide that exists for low-income Oakland students for the past 22 years,” said Tech Exchange Executive Director Seth Hubbert. “We are incredibly honored and excited to partner with Sprint and the district on the 1Million Project. Together we’re reaching thousands of additional students this school year.”
As implementation partner for Oakland, Tech Exchange is coordinating and staffing distribution events at 18 OUSD high schools to put hotspot devices into the hands of OUSD students who lack home internet access.
“We all know how challenging homework can be in the best of circumstances, but here in the 21st century, that daily task can be exponentially more difficult for students without internet access at home,” said Oakland Unified School District Superintendent, Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “We deeply appreciate Sprint and Tech Exchange for coming through with this amazing donation of internet access for thousands of our students. It will go a long way to helping them achieve the success they richly deserve.”
The 2017-2018 school year marks the first year of the initiative with more 180,000 students in 1,300 schools across 32 states. Every year over the next five years, hundreds of thousands of high schoolers who lack internet access at home will join and benefit from the 1Million Project. The ambitious goal is to connect one million students in that time to help level the playing field and help eliminate the “Homework Gap.”
“This is an exciting opportunity to demonstrate how business and education can work together to help close the digital divide,” said Suehyun “Johan” Chung, Northern California Regional President for Sprint. “We are hopeful that the 1Million Project helps to bring greater opportunity to students and families in the Oakland Unified School District and across the country.”