Work by the Pew Research Center shows that one third of the American population sees the Internet as irrelevant to their lives, and one third has difficulty navigating the net. But two Charlotte residents are key community leaders in a mission to change all that.
As Ruben Campillo and Jessica Washington approach the end of a one-year fellowship with the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (NTEN), they say Charlotte has the opportunity to work both within the community and with other cities nationwide to create programs designed to build digital inclusion and bridge the cities’ digital divide. They share a passion for using technology to address social justice.
“There are a lot of people who are not connected,” Washington says. “They do not have Internet access, they don’t have a computer at home, and there are many different reasons for that. One of them could be that they don’t see how this is relevant to your life, and how important it is especially in this day and age.”
She is part of the Urban League of Central Carolinas, a nonprofit agency focused on social mobility and economic opportunity. She says she is deeply passionate about helping significant numbers of people who are both unconnected and overlooked. Washington attempts to inform others about how to get online by personalizing their experiences to pinpoint how this connectivity is relevant to them. This might be a job search, connectivity with family, or instant access to travel information.
Ruben Campillo, the city’s other digital inclusion fellow, works with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library to combat the digital divide. Both he and Washington work with seniors, low-income families, adults without a high school diploma, people with disabilities, and members of minority groups. Many of these groups of people are not connected at the same rate as groups in other portions of the city. Campillo says he wants to make sure they know how digital literacy skills benefit them personally.
“We’re very focused on the skills necessary for someone to get online and also addressing what kinds of barriers people are facing,” Campillo says, “whether it’s having access to a device or having internet access at home.”
Dedicated to opening doors to create a culture of hope, Campillo and Washington point toward a connected future where no one is left out.
Above, top: Ruben Campillo, a fellow with the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (NTEN), conducts regular Charlotte workshops in digital literacy. Above: Washington, also a Charlotte NTEN fellow, participates in a digital inclusion community event.
The NTEN fellows are funded by Google Fiber and the Knight Foundation.