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By Claire Hegstrom
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance defines digital equity as a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy. This not only includes access to low-cost, high-speed internet, but appropriate digital devices and the skills necessary to use them.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, 74% of adults use a computer at work. So how can companies support digital skills and broadband access for their employees, while creating an equitable work environment? Here are a few ways your organization can help bridge the digital divide for your team and community at large.
Roughly 71 million computers were purchased in the United States in 2021. The average lifecycle of a business desktop computer or laptop is three to five years, maximum. What happens to all those usable devices that are being phased out?
Does your leadership team have a plan in place for tech recycling? Whether your organization’s philanthropic mission is to reduce negative climate impact or to provide internet-connected devices to individuals and communities that need them, recycling company e-waste is beneficial for everyone!
For example, PCs for People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that properly and securely wipes business and personal electronic equipment of sensitive data, and then redistributes those devices to individuals and other nonprofit organizations who need them most.
“Businesses typically retire computers every three to five years, and generally don’t think that there is functional life left in their tech. America has become the second largest producer of electronic waste in the world, so our country could greatly benefit from a focus on electronics reuse,” said Casey Sorensen, PCs for People CEO. “We offer businesses a certified secure electronic recycling service plus an opportunity for social and environmental impact. This sustainable model has helped us change the lives of over 180,000 people while keeping computers out of our waste streams.”
One of the most important ways companies and leaders can support their employees is by ensuring they have access to reliable, affordable high-speed internet at their home. This is imperative, whether your company is operating remotely, offering flexible work from home scheduling, or your team is 100% on-site.
Cultivating a diverse team means each employee experience is diverse as well. While broadband internet may feel like a drop in the bucket for one team member’s budget, it could break the bank for another.
One excellent way to combat the rising prices of high-speed internet is to share information about the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) on your employee intranet. The ACP is a government subsidy program that offers monthly discounts on internet service and a one-time discount on an internet-connected device. This program can be especially useful to those living in rural areas where higher internet speeds are required, often leading to pricier monthly bills.
Another equitable workplace benefit you may consider offering is a monthly internet stipend to all employees. Broadband stipends help employees feel that they have equal opportunity to take advantage of perks such as hybrid work or flexible hours that many attribute to a great company culture. Keep in mind that even if your organization offers these flexible location benefits, not every employee may be able to afford to take advantage of them due to the rising costs of at-home internet.
Prioritizing personal and professional development is an actionable way to show you care about your employees’ growth, while fostering equity and equality in the workplace. Offering a variety of courses every year can help those joining your team with varying skill levels in niche areas. Consider how supporting individuals’ skill growth can benefit the bottom line of your entire team.
Some ideas for course options include:
Does your team have a set budget for education expenses or learning opportunities? Make sure everyone knows about this benefit, and remind them often – not just during annual reviews or benefits open enrollment season.
In addition, crafting a resource library of manuals for systems used company-wide can level the playing field for everyone. Jumping from one email platform to another can be a jolting experience, on top of all the other new job jitters. Offering a manual of basics during initial training helps new hires feel prepared and removes unnecessary barriers to entry.
Looking for more ways to make an impact? Read these other blog posts:
Claire Hegstrom is a social impact strategist and digital equity advocate passionate about connecting communities. Focused on supporting financial wellness and independence, Claire approaches educational conversations from a candid and inclusive space centered in growth and awareness. Claire hopes reading Money Mentor will give you the resources to help you thrive in every avenue of life.
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