This post was written by Chike Aguh.
Let me start with a story.
Darriale Bradley and her family spent many nights in the parking lot of fast food restaurants, but not because of the food. It was for the Wi-Fi. For Darriale, the parking lot sitting was the only way she could do her online homework since she didn’t have a home Internet connection. Sadly, she is not the only one doing this.
There are 64 million Americans just like her who are unconnected to the Internet. These unconnected Americans are disproportionately poor and minority. In a day and age when 80 percent of students need to the Internet to do their homework and 90 percent of job applications are online, Darriale shows us that it is impossible to connect with the American Dream without the Internet. This is called the digital divide, it is real and it can be solved.
At EveryoneOn, we —along with more than 600 private and public partners—have been working feverishly to change the lives of these Americans on the wrong side of the digital divide. Here’s how.
We believe that digital inclusion requires three things: (1) affordable, high-speed home Internet service, (2) affordable devices on which to use said service and (3) top notch digital literacy training. Specifically, EveryoneOn does three things:
- Work with Internet Service Providers and device manufacturers to create and refine low cost offers that low-income families can afford.
- Help these families sign up for these offers through our website, text messaging platform and enrolment events.
- Follow up and cultivate on-the-ground people and partners to help fight the digital divide the local level.
It’s a three-legged stool approach and it is working. With this model, we have connected almost 200,000 low-income families in 48 states since 2013. Our goal is connect 350,000 families (roughly an additional one million Americans) by the end of 2018. Everyday in our work, we see that when you make the Internet accessible and affordable, people will adopt it and lives will be changed.
I know the importance of this American Dream making. It’s my story. I’m the son of Nigerian immigrants, both from rural villages who were afforded educational and subsequent economic opportunities in the United States. Without these opportunities, I literally would not be here. When I took this role at EveryoneOn, I knew this work--to connect all to the Internet--was this generation’s fight for their American Dream.
People like the mom of three who takes college-level math classes on her cell phone using the Wi-Fi from the local hospital. Or the high school student who spends his time in public parks and paying for a ride on public transit just so he can complete his online assignments each day. Or people like Darriale and her family. These are just three examples out of millions.
Having access to the Internet, I believe, is an essential part of the achieving the American Dream. Without it, true educational, economical and social equality, isn’t possible. This is why I do the work that I do and I’m proud that I can contribute to this life-changing work.
If you are interested in helping our work, please visit everyoneon.org.
Chike Aguh (Chee-Kay Ah-Goo) serves as chief executive officer (CEO) of EveryoneOn, a national social enterprise dedicated to closing the digital divide. To date, EveryoneOn has connected almost 200,000 low-income families to the Internet and the opportunity it brings. Previously, Chike worked as an education policy official under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a second grade teacher and Teach For America corps member, a Fulbright Scholar in Thailand, and a director of corporate strategy at the Advisory Board Company. Chike holds degrees from Tufts University (B.A.), the Harvard Graduate School of Education (Ed.M), the Harvard Kennedy School of Government (M.P.A), and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (M.B.A). He has spoken at the White House and SXSWEdu. He lives in Beltsville, MD with his wife, Crystal, and attends Zion Church in Landover, MD.