Anable: Closing the digital divide for Ariz. students - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Opinion

Anable: Closing the digital divide for Ariz. students

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Posted: Saturday, September 14, 2013 9:45 am

Arizona students are back in class and in addition to the notebooks and lunch boxes, some parents are packing smartphones or tablets in their kid’s backpacks. Some school districts are even now requesting that kids bring their own technology to school to enhance their learning.

A recent Pew Internet & American Life study found that more than 80 percent of teachers agree that today’s digital technologies are leading to greater disparities between affluent and disadvantaged schools and school districts. When 76 percent of teachers assign online homework, teachers increasingly find themselves in the difficult position of either leaving behind students without Internet at home or holding back the other “connected students.”

What’s truly troubling is that many kids throughout Arizona, even those with Internet-enabled smartphones and tablets, have no access to Internet in their homes. Internet access and digital literacy are essential for today’s students to succeed and ensure that they have the tools to compete in our 21st century workforce.

Connect2Compete (C2C) was created by community leaders, the private sector and foundations to bridge the digital divide and to ensure affordable access to the Internet for low income families. As a company that has a strong history of supporting broadband adoption, it was a natural for Cox Communications to jump into this partnership.

While the main goal of C2C is to improve student engagement and increase graduation rates, it also benefits other members of the household. Just consider this — in the U.S. today, more than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies post their job openings online only and require online applications — the same is true here at Cox Communications.

So how does it work? Families who have at least one child enrolled in the national free school lunch program are eligible for low-cost access to high-speed Internet through Connect2Compete. A consortium of hardware and software partners provide low cost computers and digital literacy training and Cox Communications provides a two-year commitment of Internet service for $9.99 a month, free installation and a free modem rental.

For more information, visit connect2compete.org/cox.

• Susan Anable is vice president of public affairs for Cox Communications Arizona and is the mother of two school-aged children.

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