With the pandemic exposing disparities in access to technology, education and employment across the world, two organizations in South Florida are teaming up to address these issues.
On March 14, the Miami Foundation and Achieve Miami announced the launch of Miami Connected, a program geared at bringing free broadband connectivity, digital literacy and career opportunities in technology to more than 100,000 students and their families in Miami-Dade County.
Joining in this critical initiative are Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho, City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, and other company officials.
The two companies say the partnership represents a unified effort to make Miami-Dade the most technologically inclusive county in the nation. Currently, more than one in five Miami-Dade County residents are disconnected from the internet.
Ken Griffin, the lead funder of Miami Connected said, “Connectivity is a lifeline to opportunity—it improves outcomes and gives students and their families critical resources they need to succeed. It is inspiring to see the Miami community come together to address this important issue, and I look forward to continued progress in bridging the digital divide.”
Achieve Miami Executive Director Sarah Emmons added, “If a student cannot connect to the internet, or if they don’t yet know how to navigate the virtual environment, they are missing out on the opportunity to accelerate their learning. Through internet access, digital literacy programs, and workforce opportunities, Miami Connected seeks to equalize the playing field so that all students and families can build the digital fluency they need to stay competitive in 21st-century learning and work environments.”
Providing Reliable High-Speed Internet Access to Students
Starting this month, Phase One of Miami Connected will provide two years of free broadband internet service to approximately 22,000 eligible M-DCPS students in four Miami-Dade County neighborhoods. The program begins in Overtown and will extend to Little Haiti, Liberty City and Homestead. Phase Two will expand coverage on a school-by-school basis to serve all under-resourced communities in the county where home internet access is severely limited or does not exist.
“One year after we were forced to temporarily shut down the physical schoolhouse, it is evident that this pandemic has negatively impacted under-resourced neighborhoods much more than others in our community,” said Superintendent of Schools Alberto M. Carvalho.
“With 52 percent of M-DCPS students engaging in online learning and the remaining 48 percent in the classroom still heavily relying on consistent broadband access to achieve educational success, high-quality home internet has become a necessity for our region’s young learners.”
Greater Miami’s Vision for Digital Access
In addition to providing internet service, Miami Connected will teach students and their families the skills necessary to use their devices and become digitally literate. This aspect of the program will be achieved through a community advisory group that will execute grant programs.
“In order to be the most technologically inclusive city in the nation, we must ensure that all children and families have access to the internet and digital literacy tools,” said Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, president and CEO of The Miami Foundation. “This bold collaboration is a massive step in that direction.”
Miami Connected will also invest in career pathways that increase diversity and inclusivity in the technology sector.
The effort will issue startup grants to help innovators develop new technologies aimed at solving disparity issues in disenfranchised communities. The final phase of the project will identify long-term, cost-effective strategies to maintain broadband internet for all students in need in Miami-Dade.