What if you woke up and didn’t have your smartphone to check the latest Charlotte Agenda post, didn’t have Alexa to check the weather, didn’t have your laptop to finish a last-minute resume update or homework assignment. These are daily things to those with access, but it’s not the case for everyone in Charlotte.
So, what can be done about it? I’m glad you asked. Here are five easy ways that YOU can support digital inclusion efforts right here in Charlotte.
Support your local library
The Library system is our front line when it comes to digital literacy and inclusion. They are the superheroes of information access. When we consider the steps to digital inclusion, internet access is one of them. The library provides services for hundreds of people around Charlotte who need a computer to work on, internet access, and that superhero librarian. The problem with the library, just like any business, is that it closes on nights and holidays. Supporting these local lighthouses and being an advocate for new branches help shine a light in parts of Charlotte that are cut off from that access. Being cut off from digital access is immobilizing and creates isolation- the library helps others feel like they’re not alone, you can make a difference by supporting them. Visit www.cmlibrary.org to learn more.
See the invisible
We live our lives online, posting albums on Facebook, project updates on LinkedIn, and Instagram stories. If you’re not in the digital divide, you’re digitally cut off, seemingly invisible in today’s modern world. If they’re not on your timeline, people not connected aren’t seen- out of sight, out of mind. You can influence digital inclusion by fighting for the unseen. Be an active citizen— realize that not everyone is online and connected in these networks. There are many reasons for this, such as income level and education level, and being aware of the digital divide and the real people it effects (hint: All of us) is a good first step in combating the issue.
Build relationships with tech companies
If technology is your strong suit, or even a part of your job, enhancing the relationship between nonprofits like Digital Charlotte and your company can help drive community impact. The tech community, especially here in Charlotte harbors many resources that are helpful for supporting digital inclusion. Building partnerships with businesses that specialize in digital literacy and digital skills will help integrate them into volunteer opportunities. No matter what you do, there is an opportunity to become an advocate. Another great way for tech (or any) company to support digital inclusion efforts in Charlotte is to ensure that decommissioning technology makes its way to E2D – Eliminate the Digital Divide. E2D is one of only two non-profit technology refurbishers in the state. They can help you easily navigate this process and make these devices are sustainably reused to support the people of our community.
Educate your network
Social capital is a key to thriving in a modern world and has been proven especially imperative in the Charlotte region. Some of the best ideas are spread through word of mouth. We’re attracted to passionate people- so you can influence digital inclusion by showing your network that you care about digital literacy and that you are an advocate for change. People support passionate people – sometimes it’s as simple as that. Friends, colleagues, teachers, and even your Mom are all a part of your network. Employing your unique position to intentionally share resources will help promote and protect digital inclusion in Charlotte. Your network will see what’s different about you, and they’ll want in. – Your network will see the change in you, and they’ll want to be apart of it. So go ahead and share this article. Tell people why you care. Start making that impact right now!
Meeting people where they are is an essential aspect of bridging the digital divide. If you own a computer, have a smartphone or do any number of things I listed earlier – chances are you’re digitally literate. You can take your skills- and yes, they’re skills, and show others how to utilize the opportunities digital literacy encompasses. If you don’t know where to start, or how you can tangibly make a difference you can volunteer with Digital Charlotte who offers workshops and digital resources as well as partners with key community businesses and stakeholders. Click here to find out more: https://digitalcharlotte.org/volunteer/