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Moving from Temporary to Comprehensive Solutions

When COVID-19 lockdowns forced schools to transition to remote learning, everyone scrambled to ensure that students were equipped with the tools necessary to continue their studies at home. Unfortunately, the pandemic caught us flatfooted, and we quickly became aware of the harsh realities of digital inequity. We saw that too many students didn’t have the proper devices, internet access, and knowledge for using these technologies. As a result, nearly 16% of Californian students were at risk of being left behind. 

In response to the digital inequities, grassroots collaborations emerged and public-private partnerships formed to equip students with Chromebooks and internet hot spots so that they could stay atop their schoolwork. These stop-gap measures, however, failed to address how the pandemic merely exacerbated a problem that requires thorough and long-term solutions.

Except for a few visionary leaders and organizations that have been working on digital inequity for a long time, no one knew what a comprehensive solution could look like. In response, we at the Michelson 20MM  Foundation have fixed our sights on combating digital inequity by coordinating the efforts of disparate organizations and actors so that we can present the united front needed to eliminate the digital divide.

Bringing Everyone Together

Funded by a Michelson Spark Grant, UNITE-LA in partnership with the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), will launch the LA-Digital Equity Action League (LA-DEAL), a regional community-driven consortium focused on eliminating the digital divide through a collaborative and multi-sector process. These convenings will share the Consortium’s vision of addressing: 1) broadband infrastructure gaps in low-income and underserved communities, 2) internet affordability, 3) quality (reliability/speed) of services, 4) adoption, and 5) access to devices. 

LA-DEAL will seek to understand stakeholder challenges and to engage new stakeholders. Phase one of the launch will consist of a series of discussions by different sectors including, Government, Nonprofit, Philanthropy, Private Sector, Healthcare, Tech, Education, and ISPs. Phase two will include the launch of five different workgroups focused on broadband infrastructure, devices, digital literacy, affordability and policy. Finally, LA-DEAL will host regional conversations that focus on region-specific challenges. 

A Community-Wide Call to Action

The digital inequity pandemic has plagued students for far too long. The issue is rooted in historical injustices that continue to hit students of color the hardest. LA-DEAL trumpets a call to action for us to focus our collective energy on eradicating digital inequity. Michelson 20MM looks forward to collaborating with community leaders, government entities, nonprofits, the private sector, and philanthropy to develop a comprehensive, long-lasting solution for the good of our students.

The Michelson 20MM Foundation is dedicated to supporting and investing in leading organizations, technologies, and initiatives that seek to transform learning and improve access to educational opportunities that lead to a meaningful career. Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon and inventor Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson. Visit us at 20mm.org.