During COVID-19, SoLa Impact and our non-profit affiliate, The I CAN Foundation prioritized closing the digital divide in South Los Angeles by working to increase access to technology and internet connectivity. In March 2020, SoLa polled tenants and found an enormous and urgent need: 42% of tenant youth lacked the tools to distance learn and 70% of tenants could not afford internet. South LA is already a tech desert. 20% of families lack adequate internet connectivity and students are 3X less likely to keep up with school due to either poor or no internet connectivity than students in other parts of LA County. With 57% of families in South LA having experienced job loss due to COVID-19 and the disproportionate effect the pandemic has had on Black and Latinx communities generally, the digital divide has only widened.
Last Spring, SoLa I CAN raised $60,000 to purchase 275 laptops for community youth. But we knew we had to go farther. As students returned to school in the Fall, we heard and read too many stories about kids using the WiFi at a local McDonalds while sitting in their car or multiple kids sharing their parent’s cell phone to access their classes. We immediately jumped into action.
SoLa launched the 1,000 For 1,000 Initiative to supply 1,000 low income South LA families with internet access for 1,000 days. We are thrilled to have surpassed our $500,000 goal and have distributed all 1,000 hotspots to needy families. Jade Iovine, 1000 For 1000 campaign chair and I CAN Foundation Board Member joined the campaign because, “to be without internet is to be voiceless and denied access to pathways that allow us to grow, learn, and find success. I’m so grateful to have worked with the SoLa team to create a campaign where individuals can provide internet access for South LA families and help level the playing field for those who have been hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic.” Our success would not have been possible without the amazing corporate and community partners such as T-Mobile, ATT, LA Rams, Wells Fargo, LA Kings, Beats by Dre, Human I-T, CompuDopt, LAUSD and others. Thank you to all of our contributors and partners.
The impact on the daily lives of 1,000 families in South LA is real. Here are the personal stories of the Tate, Hamm and Carillo families who received internet and computers through 1,000 For 1,000. SoLa is following each family to track how their lives have improved over time.
Our work is NOT done. Unfortunately, South LA’s digital divide will continue to persist with the end of the 1000 for 1000 campaign. Nearly one million California students are believed to still have connectivity issues.
Our next step is the opening of SoLa I CAN’s Technology and Entrepreneurship Center in Fall 2021, the first of its kind in South LA. This state-of-the-art 10,000 sq ft “Tech YMCA” will offer high quality technology education, mentorship and entrepreneurship training to thousands of South LA youth and adults – seeding, training and empowering the next generation of Black and Latinx tech workers, leaders and entrepreneurs.
For more information and opportunities to get involved, please visit solatechcenter.com