Housing and Helping to Bridge the Digial Divide
With virtual learning a necessity for many students during the pandemic, bridging the digital divide has never been more important. To meet this urgent need, L.A. County is providing $12.5 million in CARES Act funding to school districts throughout the County so that they can supply students with computers and Wi-Fi hotspot access. Our County library system is also a key player in these efforts. Thanks to the laptop lending program, visitors who drop by their local library for pick-up service can borrow a laptop along with a book. And we’re also using CARES Act funding to expand Wi-Fi connectivity in library parking lots so that local residents and library patrons can go online without going inside. For a closer look at these programs, explore this website for video content and more.
LA County laptop lending program
$650,000 was allocated to expand Library’s laptop and hotspot kit lending program, first launched in September 2020 with 60 take-home kits at 10 libraries in communities with the lowest household internet subscription rates.
LA County Library’s new technology-focused services offer many ways for countless LA County residents who lack reliable internet or access to computers at home to gain the connectivity essential for their lives, making steps toward bridging the digital divide. As COVID-19 forced libraries to close to the public, and shifted many activities online, LA County Library quickly developed methods for bringing connectivity to those who need it most.
The digital divide has continued to negatively impact many LA County communities, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded its effects. Those without reliable internet or access to computers at home may not be able to complete work or school, to access health-related information, perform essential tasks such as ordering groceries or household items, or to connect with family and friends.
LA County Library is among the first in the Los Angeles area to offer a take-home kit that includes a laptop along with the mobile hotspot, a pairing that fully enables those who may not have access to one or both of these essential technologies.
The program was promoted through direct mail, at food distribution events, and through radio ads, digital ads, social media ads and on-site marketing.
LACOE Helps Bridge the Digital Divide
$17.2 million was allocated to enable students to connect to their schools and teachers in a safe and secure instructional environment through the efforts of the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE).
Advancing Equity through Outreach
Barriers to students’ learning were reduced with the distribution of Chromebooks and iPads. Hot spots with unlimited data and content filtering were also provided. LACOE partnered with T-Mobile to distribute hot spots directly to school districts. They also worked with Apple and Omnipro to deliver devices and provide technical support to districts. The assistance from these vendors helped LACOE streamline the process to get devices into the hands of students quickly. LACOE’s ability to leverage bulk inventory assisted to fast track distribution since districts working in isolation were challenged with supply chain demands from vendors.
Although digital technology is widely used across Los Angeles County, many communities and low-income households do not have access to technology, including broadband access—a disparity that the pandemic brought starkly to the forefront. LACOE is working on long-term solutions and signed a non-disclosure agreement with Charter Communications to identify students needing internet access at home. LACOE is also collaborating with the County Chief Information Office on their plan to develop a comprehensive regional digital divide strategy and is actively engaged in advocating for federal and state legislation to find long-term solutions.