Potential. Possibility. Progress. These are three words that can describe the modern world we live in. The advent of faster, stronger technology has touched every facet of our American lives. We have the ability to travel thousands of miles in a matter of hours. We can heal illnesses that in the past would have wiped out whole populations and we can access information at a speed faster than we can process it. Just a few generations ago, these things would have been considered nothing short of magic.
Our Digital Survival class might be described as ‘nothing short of magic’ by many we serve in our RS community. It is a class that teaches digital literacy to a community that is impacted profoundly by the digital divide. A recent survey done by Google Fiber found that 17 percent of Kansas City (roughly 80,000) do not have access to the Internet. Of that number, 41 think the Internet is irrelevant and 28 percent lack access. Demographically, 44 percent are seniors, 46 percent are African-American, 42 percent make less than $25,000 a year and 64 percent have a high school education or less. These numbers are directly representative of the community that RS serves.
Many of our neighbors live in a world where they see great opportunity in the form of tools for technology and information, yet they can't move forward. Many experience feelings of frustration and confusion, but they are often too intimidated or embarrassed to ask why this is the case. More importantly, the majority of our neighbors don’t know how to change their situation. They can see the potential, possibility and progress all around them, but they are painfully aware of their inability to access it. This inability has several root causes: for some it's the lack of education, for some it's an ignorance of computer technology that borders on superstition, but for the majority it is a simple lack of access to the technology itself.
At RS cafe, we offer free Wi-Fi to the neighborhood. This allows those who have the technology such as a smartphone to get online. Once there, they may look for housing, find a loved one, or as you may have read in our Venerate article about Fr. Chris they can find employment through Resolve Staffing. Many however, have the technology, such as a low-grade smart phone, but they don’t know how to use it. That’s where our Digital Survival Class comes in. We help them discover the tools that are already at their fingertips. At RS addressing the digital divide is an important aspect of advocacy because it represents a means by which the community we serve can find dignity and solutions to become community sufficient.
Poverty isn't something that is easily solved and digital literacy is only one piece of the puzzle, but in this modern world it is an important piece. For that young woman who desperately needs a job, getting an email set up and having a computer to help sign up for daycare is the very thing that can make or break her life situation.
Article by Fr. Deacon Turbo Qualls, RS