The city is donating 500 pieces of used government computers to Detroiters as an attempt to shrink the digital divide.
The nonprofit human-I-T, with locations in California and Detroit, is processing and refurbishing the devices, which will be available at little to no cost depending on an individual’s income or other qualifications. The nonprofit has given out more than 17,000 devices since establishing its footprint in Detroit in summer 2020 through partnerships with several donors such as Rocket Companies, Ally Financial, Delta Dental and Wayne State University.
More:Nonprofit looks to bridge Detroit’s digital divide through donations from local businesses
More:Detroit wants nearly $2.5B to fix infrastructure, bridge digital divide and expand services
Jennifer Jambor, senior programs manager for human-I-T said the company has a “top-notch” data destruction process to ensure all equipment is completely wiped. The city is replacing its equipment with newer models.
“Recently, we received this certification called NAID,” Jambor said. “We are one of 93 organizations across the globe that has this certification and what that means is that our partners can, rest assured, that once we receive their donation, it’s cleaned and wiped and evaluated and they receive a certificate of certification that we have gone through all the proper processes in order to make sure that their data is secure.”
Closing the digital divide, the gap between those who can afford reliable access to high-speed internet and updated hardware, and those who cannot, is among Mayor Mike Duggan’s infrastructure priorities. Duggan aims to use federal funding to determine whether the city can run fiber-optic cables to every house in Detroit to eliminate the gap.
Detroiters could take advantage of the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Plan, which offers up to $100 to purchase a laptop or computers through participating internet providers. But not many providers in Detroit are not participating in the voucher, said Joshua Edmonds, Detroit’s digital inclusion director.
“The desire is obviously to do as much free as possible. But the operations for this to actually work as a functioning operation, there is a low cost attached to it. But the goal is to get it to the lowest cost possible every single time,” Edmonds said. “You’ll see laptops as low as $100 in some cases even lower.”
Edmonds added that the digital inclusion office also helped enroll more than 100,000 households in a temporary program using federal subsidies to offset internet costs, a move that is helping the city gain traction for additional federal support.
“We have the most residents enrolled in this program nationally. There’s not another city that’s done more than us on this,” Edmonds said. “In Washington right now, we are able to say we’re doing a great job with the money that’s available in the programs that are available. But at the end of the day, we do need more and the only way we’d be able to say that is if we actually did what we’re doing right now, which is making sure that all the way down to the electronic waste that has been recycled, we’re looking at ways to refurbish that.”
More:The world is going virtual but many in Detroit are still left behind
Detroit residents Zsadaja Drewery and Tagia Odom received laptops through the program, which they say has helped ease their home lives. The two heard about it through Brilliant Detroit, a childhood readiness and development program.
I’ve actually lost my job taking care of my mom due to various health conditions. It gives me an opportunity to do research to start up a business or entrepreneurship. So I’ve been looking … through the stock market, checking prices for various stores and even just trying to get a work-from-home job all together so I can accommodate my kids and my mom’s schedule all together,” Drewery said.
Drewery is working on setting up a business for her kids to create clothing with encouraging and empowering statements, such as “I am Blessed” or “I’m a King” to help them establish a source of income, she said. Every since she received her laptop two months ago, Drewery has been researching markets, pricing and materials to kickstart her brand.
Odom, who is a volunteer nutrition teacher at Brilliant Detroit said access to technology not only helps keep her study how different foods grow, it has also made a difference in her household.
“We have two laptops right now. And one of them could be tutoring while the other one is on ABC Mouse, or I could be on my mom thing or just anything anything,” Odom said. “It really opened up a lot of doors for me and my family.
Anyone interested in the program can apply online or by calling human-I-T at 888-391-7249. To learn how to donate, go to detroitmi.gov/digitaldonations.
Dana Afana is the Detroit city hall reporter for the Free Press. Contact Dana: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-635-3491. Follow her on Twitter: @DanaAfana.