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District : Oakland Unified School District

State : California

Level : P-12, Postsecondary

Related Tags : Digital Equity

Digital Equity Champions for All Learners: #OaklandUndivided Advances Tech Access from “Cradle to Career”

In May 2020, the City of Oakland, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), Oakland Public Education Fund, TechExchange, and the Oakland Promise launched #OaklandUndivided, an equity-based, collective impact initiative to close the digital divide. Through their efforts, nearly all 50,000+ OUSD students have access to internet, a device for learning, and . At the start of the pandemic, only 12 percent of low-income students in the district were connected; by the end of the 20-21 school year, 98 percent of low-income students were connected.

David Silver, the Director of Education for the Mayor of Oakland and one of the leaders of #OaklandUndivided, and Jessica Ramos, the student liaison at #OaklandUndivided, attended the U.S. Department of Education’s National Digital Equity Summit in September 2022. In a video interview, we asked them, “How are you and your organization working across sectors to advance digital equity for learners, families, and communities?”

“It’s about cradle to career,” said Silver about the initiative. “For the third straight year, every Oakland Public School student – who has a need – can have access to a computer and internet. In addition to that, we expanded it to pre-K… and eight institutions of higher learning. Eight postsecondary institutions, including the [University of California system], [California State University system], community colleges, private colleges that are local to the Bay Area, said, ‘We also will join that pledge and commit that our students will have access to a computer and internet, as well if they have a need.’”

Jessica Ramos, who is a graduate of Oakland Unified School District and a current student at the University of California, Berkeley, also described their student internship program. The program engages students to serve as digital navigators, who as trusted members of the community, assist others with accessing the internet and devices. For example, student interns conduct outreach to increase awareness of programs and services, such as the Affordable Connectivity program, in their communities.

Next, we asked them, “How will you continue building on this commitment to digital equity?”

Silver explained that the leadership partners of #OaklandUndivided have created a coalition with community organizations to champion community-wide connectivity. “That coalition that includes the NAACP, that includes Latino Education Network, that includes Homies Empowerment [and] people on the ground that know what it is like to live in a community that has this need… going to push and advocate to make sure that the unconnected gets served.”