San Diego Takes Impressive Steps to Shrink the Digital Divide

This past week in class, we have discussed the stark digital divide between developing and developed countries around the world, as individuals in many parts of the world are severely restricted in terms of access to, use of, or knowledge of information and communication technologies.   In our reading, we learned that some countries in Africa such as Burundi, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Niger all have less than 1 Internet user per 100 people,  according to Tim Unwin in, “ICT4D: Information and Communication Technologies for Developmen.” What we too often forget however is that this concept of digital divide is not addressing solely impoverished third world countries across the Atlantic & Pacific Oceans, but rather also within our own borders in even seemingly wealthy urban areas.

San Diego, city known for its lovely climate and extensive beaches also has roughly 29 percent of the population lacking access to Internet at home. The San Diego Office of Education has not however accepted this as an inevitable circumstance and has teamed up with local businesses and non-profits to launch its “Unlimited Access” Program. It provides families with a “broadband device and a refurbished, three-year-old desktop valued at $950” (  for the full article). This ambitious program aims to provide all households in the San Diego County with internet, which the county superintendent of schools deems as an absolutely necessary prerequisite to succeeding in one’s education. The program has provided computers to 1,500 families since 2010, including most recently to students from migrant worker families. At least within the United States, the Digital Economy Rankings 2010  claim that the global digital divide is narrowing seems to hold true.

This program seems to be establishing a model for cities all over the country to eradicate the ever-restricting digital divide. After working in several educational settings in the New Orleans region, I would argue that the city could potentially use a similar program. Would you all agree? Is providing computers to all these families productive in enhancing their quality our life or is it going to result in wasted resources that are not put to the intended use?

To help analyze this issues even further, one could check out Maine’s program which provides an IPAD to every kindergartner and laptop to every student from seventh-grade on up in the state. The state’s investment in technology seems to boast of a high success rate. To read article:


7 responses to “San Diego Takes Impressive Steps to Shrink the Digital Divide

  • mattbrandeburg

    I enjoyed this post a lot–the examples given were relevant and thought-provoking. I wish you had spent more time talking about the Maine program as the state has many parallels to Louisiana–particularly New Orleans–with its seasonal tourism industry and lower income bracket than many of its neighbors. Also, I would have enjoyed a brief discussion about the legislative obstacles encountered trying to get a program like this off of the ground.
    All in all, very interesting post indeed.

  • tanvishah1

    I’m curious how both San Diego County and Maine are funding these initiatives. I’m not sure as to the state of Maine’s finances, but it seems that California in general has been struggling to balance its finances in the past few years. New Orleans, it seems, would have a hard time getting an initiative like this approved when there are much more urgent problems to attend to.

    Also, how do they ensure buy-in? A $20 fee is nothing – how can the county ensure that people are not selling these computers and equipment? Will the people be careful enough if they really have not invested much [money] into these devices?

    These questions actually apply to my own blogpost, something that I didn’t think about at the time of writing it. It would be interesting to know the answers to these questions.

  • nsaqer

    I agree with Matt. I think that it would be an interesting discussion to see if a program could similarly be applied to New Orleans itself. I think too, though, that if giving kindergartners an iPad is an effective way to close the digital divide, other educational divides will present themselves in its stead. How will kids learn to write growing up with this type of technology and the ease of typing?

  • zswartz

    I’m also curious about the funding. New Orleans clearly has many other pressing problems that are not being addressed by government so it doesn’t seem realistic to me that they would fund a program like this. It’s an interesting idea though, since there are so any disparities in the New Orleans education system.

  • vcahen

    Being from San Diego and having volunteered 15 minutes away from my community and seeing a difference in education and other aspects I knew there was a digital divide, but I had no idea that it was that big of a differential.

    • skaplan9190

      Also from San Diego, I had the same reaction to this post and its content. Just today I was thinking about how I’m so drawn to help places internationally when there is so much at “home” that also needs to be done. I am curious as well though about the funding.. and how long the PCs will be able to last (since parts and compatibility w/software is constantly changing).

  • jdywest7

    This is a very insightful post. I am curious to learn about San Diego’s public school system, and its role in addressing this divide inside the classroom.

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