Grant Money in San Jose Aimed at Providing Internet Access




The area of San Jose is one of those places in America where the dividing line separating the haves from have nots is very thick and clear. This is exemplified by the lack of total Internet access that poorer residents in San Jose deal with, some even lacking smartphones and old-generation modes of accessing the Internet.

What makes this separation among classes so apparent in San Jose is that it's known as the center of Silicon Valley, the tech capital of the world, so most would assume that everyone in the area has Internet access, at the very least. However, this is not the case, and around 10% of residents do not have Internet access in their homes.

Principal Joe Albers, of Cristo Rey San Jose High School, spoke on the issue of the divide. Many people have "limited access to technology in their home," he stated. He continued, to claim that most of "our students are pretty tech-savvy and can adapt," but continued on that their parents aren't nearly as adept technologically and really have no interest in home computers, on top of not having the funds available for them, as immigrants who are relatively recent arrivals to America and the San Jose area.

Principal Albers, along with many other social justice advocates and immigration advocates, fear that a lack of resources for these children in this modern age will set them up for failure, where they will never be able to surpass their parents in terms of success, and where they're always part of a permanent underclass, incapable of competing in the economy due to lack of resources and training.

The good news is that this message is being read loud and clear, not only in San Jose but around the nation. It really started under former President Barack Obama, with his famed "Obamaphone" initiative that aimed to serve underprivileged communities with modern tech, by way of generic-brand smartphones that had the same computing and app capabilities as more expensive iPhones and Android options. This has been a government initiative on a state level in California for years as well, serving communities in Watts, Compton, Los Angeles, and beyond.

Though ironically enough, the home of Silicon Valley never gave much thought to how their citizens were competing in the open technology marketplace, and so children of immigrants have been ignored for a very long time, which has had nearly a generation's worth of adverse effects in only a short time frame.

Help Arrives for Immigrant Children in Form of Grant

Earlier this week, the San Jose City Council awarded $1 million in immediate grant money to be spent among 23 separate organizations in order to bring Internet access to more people. While in terms of government spending $1 million seems like a fairly small number, it's important to note that Internet access isn't that expensive, especially considering the fact that it's Silicon Valley and the area already has ample infrastructure for broadband, cable and WiFi Internet all over. So the issue is really just empowering individual homeowners with a boost that enables them to seek Internet access and to have it hooked up. To that end, the Council hopes that $1 million will be adequate, at least for now.

Among the recipients who will help to spread that money around are a few character schools, who have access to poor students. By going through the schools, administrators and officials can learn precisely who needs the access, with the hope being that no money is actually wasted or misappropriated. The same logic applies to housing developers. These businesses work with people all the time in the realm of affordable housing, so the hope is that they know precisely who needs these funds, theoretically eliminating waste and fraud.

The $1 million grant is just the jumping off point for the poorer citizens of San Jose who do not have access. The City Council made this the first drop in the bucket of a new San Jose Digital Inclusion Fund initiative, which aims to ensure that every citizen has access to today's technology as a human right.

According to San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, there are "thousands of our residents who [struggle] because they are not part of this digital world." He continued that the key is to get devices in the hands of San Jose's citizens, all of them, so that they can learn and compete and be connected. The Mayor hopes that children will learn the skills necessary to enable competition within the market as they graduate school and enter the workforce.





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