Student-Empowered NGO Bridges America's Digital Divide with Tech Donations
Net Literacy (NL) is a student-empowered organization in which students comprise 50 percent of the board of directors, set its mission and priorities, write its grants, and perform all of the community services. NL aims to teach students entrepreneurship, leadership, and job skills. One of the organization's main objectives is to help reduce the digital divide and provide computers to thousands of people across the country who need them. Working with TechSoup and Microsoft, NL has refurbished thousands of computers. It has increased computer access for 120,000 individuals. In the last four years alone, NL has donated more than 15,000 computers that its volunteers have refurbished to libraries, schools, and nonprofits. Because of its impressive student volunteer structure, NL is able to do this work without charging the recipients for its services and equipment.
There are four main components to the program. NL's Computer Connects program re-purposes thousands of computers every week in high schools and colleges, redoes facilities, and equips them with Windows operating systems. Its Senior Connects program promotes senior citizen computer and Internet literacy by supplying computers and training materials, building public computer labs, and teaching senior citizens. NL's Safe Connects program educates students about Internet safety in conjunction with the Department of Education. Finally, its Community Connects program has built hundreds of computer labs to increase computer access to the underserved, by providing computers to HUD and Section 8 apartments, community centers, faith-based organizations, public libraries, schools, and nonprofits. This program increases computer access where the digital divide is the deepest.