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Communities Use Technology to Live, Learn, and Thrive Together: Building a Sustainable Digital Inclusion Ecosystem in San Diego

It’s time to be honest with ourselves. Digital equity is a Civil Rights issue. The injustices inflicted upon individuals by the digital divide are worthy of outrage, and an urgent national response is required.  

Technology gaps are pervasive and exist across the country.  As a nation, we must recognize and acknowledge the number of households who are currently non-deviced or under-deviced, and build a sustainable digital inclusion ecosystem that will fulfill the needs of today’s population and that of our future generations. 

Defining the digital divide is the first step toward providing a solution to this national crisis.  Developing a powerful “call to action” is the second step.  And enlisting local, state and national support is the final step. 

Achieving digital equity requires a robust, reliable supply of free or low-cost devices to fill this need, as well as effective community-level systems of distribution and the provision of related services such as training, connectivity, and support.   

In January of 2023, President Joe Biden signed into law the Computers for Veterans and Students (COVS) Act, providing federal surplus and repairable computers to certified nonprofit refurbishing companies. The nonprofits’ mission will be to repair, equip and distribute the computers to veterans, students, and others in need, as well as provide the training required to utilize new technology. 

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Computers 2 Kids’ (C2K) methodology for a Sustainable Digital Inclusion Ecosystem in San Diego is to identify the key elements and conditions for device ownership that need to be in place to ensure affordable devices and related supports are available to those who need them.  

  • Device Needs Identified – People and communities with the greatest need are identified;  
  • Device Sourcing – Community unites to allocate their retired technology to nonprofit refurbishers;   
  • Proper Device Configuration – Devices are equipped with the appropriate software and hardware for the intended user;  
  • Device Distribution – Consistent supply of no-cost/low-cost devices are available for residents; Distribution is available at locations trusted by the community;  
  • Support Available – To ensure effective use, training, connectivity assistance, repair, and support must be available;  
  • Effective Communication – Transparent, multilingual outreach to those who can most benefit;  
  • Device Lifecycle – Easy access to options for upgrading, reusing, recycling; and  
  • Continuous Improvement – Plan for future needs; document and share best practices.  

Recognizing that San Diego could be a national leader in the Digital Inequity sector, C2K has focused on growing a digital inclusion ecosystem in San Diego through partnership with the City of San Diego, SANDAG, the San Diego Housing Commission, the San Diego Public Library, Parks and Recreation Centers, the San Diego County Office of Education, and other community organizations as the official device partner for the City of San Diego’s SD Access 4 All Initiative.   

SD Access 4 All provides three digital inclusion programs. The first is a Digital Navigator program. Community members receive one-on-one assistance in connecting to digital inclusion resources, internet adoption, device ownership, and the use of devices through repeated interactions in multiple languages. C2K provides one full-time Digital Navigator in support of this program.  

The second program, “Access 4 All Tech Express,” offers mobile, no-cost digital literacy skills training, meeting residents where they are in the community. The City provides 60 hours of weekly instruction with the goal of 120 students trained each week. After each training session, they assist students in completing the C2K Technology Assistance Program application for a refurbished device. Each system distributed includes Microsoft and educational software. 

The third program is a Digital Equity Hotline that triages callers to the above services and offers remote technical support in multiple languages. C2K provides all system recipients with free technical support and lifetime system replacement.   

The C2K Technology Assistance Program has a proven, highly effective distribution model by recognizing that the recipient family thrives best when given the opportunity to invest in their future. This sense of ownership empowers them to utilize the tools received to make a more substantial impact on their financial and educational successes. C2K’s small administrative fee for the computers allows families to feel empowered in their own future.   

 C2K’s current device packages include:  

  • Desktop System including a 22-inch LCD monitor, Wi-Fi Connection Adapter, 1020 HD Web Camera, Headset with built-in Microphone, and C2K’s robust software package including Microsoft and free technical support.  
  • Yoga System including a built-in web camera, Headset with built-in Microphone, and C2K’s robust software package including Microsoft and free technical support.  
  • Core iSeries Laptop System including 1020 HD Web Camera (where no built-in web camera is available), Headset with built-in Microphone, and C2K’s robust software package including Microsoft and free technical support.  

Environmental Impact of Electronic Waste 

Electronic Waste – commonly referred to as E-Waste – is discarded electronic devices with a battery or plug that are no longer wanted, functional, or are obsolete.  More than 50 million metric tons of E-Waste is generated globally every year. When E-Waste is exposed to heat, toxic chemicals are released into the air, damaging the atmosphere and becoming one of the most significant environmental impacts of E-Waste. Those toxic materials can then seep into the groundwater, affecting both land and sea animals. Electronic waste can also contribute to air pollution. C2K is committed to providing our donors with a green alternative for their technology, saving them the financial responsibility of storing or disposing of their E-Waste. Additionally, donors get the added value of providing needed technology and its resources that have been traditionally denied to low-income families. 

You Can Help – Don’t Throw Your Electronics Away, Think C2K 

At the close of 2022, we are proud to have distributed over 43,000 refurbished computers while keeping 1.4 million pounds of valuable E-Waste out of landfills. Digital Inclusion is at the forefront of our minds as we move into 2023. We are closely collaborating with more organizations to build a robust, sustainable digital inclusion ecosystem within our community. C2K’s first computer distribution of 2023 reached close to 500 families in San Diego County, placing over 600 refurbished computers into first-time homes. This outreach is a crucial step towards total digital equity, where everyone has the same access to technology, internet, and digital literacy.   

At C2K we believe there are multiple ways to reach digital equity. One approach goes handinhand with Earth Day 2023, wherein we recognize and support the need to help protect our planet. Recycling used computers is one of the most efficient ways to help close the Digital Divide for today’s population and for future generations. We recover valuable electronics that would otherwise end up in landfills.  Electronics are refurbished for families who do not have a computer at home. Combating the surging volume of E-Waste cannot happen alone. For families, businesses, and companies looking to prioritize Earth Day this year, we ask that you keep C2K in mind. Please do not throw your electronics away, Think C2K. www.c2sdk.org or call (858) 200-9791. 


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