J’Tanya Adams, regional manager of EveryoneOn in Charlotte.
The leader of a program designed to eliminate the digital divide says Charlotte is not keeping up.
J’Tanya Adams became the Charlotte regional manager at EveryoneOn in August 2015. EveryoneOn offers free or low cost Internet service in 48 states and the District of Columbia. The organization says that despite the growing importance of the Internet in American life, 28 percent of Americans do not use the Internet at all.
“We need to catch up,” Adams says. “We are showing more people not connected than some others such as Atlanta. And the population that is least connected is our seniors, and then African-Americans and Latinos.” A Charlotte survey indicates almost 20 percent of the city’s population lacks Internet service of any kind.
According to EveryoneOn, there are many reasons why people do not use the Internet. They either do not believe it’s relevant, don’t know how to use the technology, or they find it unaffordable. Adams weighed in, “It is about messaging. We’ve not undertaken the opportunity to enlighten our citizens a bit more.” Adams believes that if the resources are made available to the community, then the community will gain interest and feel empowered to use digital tools and eliminate the digital divide.
Adams and EveryoneOn are focused on connecting people to basic Internet at a low cost. There are three steps. First, making available low cost, high speed Internet that does not exceed $10 a month. Next, offering a low cost computer and working with Kramden Institute to get devices into the community. Lastly, focus on education and referring individuals to other computer-training educators.
To spread the message, EveryoneOn and J’Tanya Adams are committed to offering several events that are open to the community.
Adoption events are offered so that unconnected members of the community can go onsite and get connected to the Internet, receive a hotspot, and sign up for computer classes. Workshops on how Internet can empower citizens personally and increase wellbeing will also be accessible. In addition, enrollment events will take place to inspire partners to bring the program to their area, community, or nonprofit.
Adams and EveryoneOn conducted a community event at Clinton Chapel AME Zion Church in November 2015 that identified 100 people looking for Internet education and distributed 27 low-cost personal computers. The event also enabled people to sign up for low-cost Internet access and learn more about Internet training.
“The Internet is looked at, among those that aren’t connected, mostly as entertainment,” she says. “They have other ways of entertaining themselves without committing to making a monthly commitment. So to get them to understand the value and to see the power of the tool, along with the ability to entertain one’s self, is probably the one thing. It’s the messaging and the shifting of the mindset.”