Obama brings Internet to low-income homes to bridge ‘homework gap’


The White House has launched "Connect Home," a program that will connect low-income households to the Internet. The pilot program will provide free or low-cost Internet access to about 200,000 students in 27 cities nationwide as well as digital training and devices.

President Obama wants to close the "homework gap" between low-income students and their more affluent classmates through Connect Home. According to a report by the Council of Economic Advisers, about fifty percent of low-income students under 10 do not have internet access at home.

The White House has paired up with Best Buy, GitHub, Khan Academy, the American Library Association and the College Board, among others, to make Connect Home a reality. The program relies on private-sector funding with the exception of a grant provided by the Department of Agriculture.

Google, the James M. Cox Foundation and the 80/20 Foundation are among the funding organizations. The program will also rely on local governments' support and that of corporate and nonprofit organizations to run.

"While many middle-class U.S. students go home to Internet access, allowing them to do research, write papers, and communicate digitally with their teachers and other students, too many lower-income children go unplugged every afternoon when school ends," the White House said.

"This ‘homework gap' runs the risk of widening the achievement gap, denying hardworking students the benefit of a technology-enriched education."

GitHub has donated $250,000 to the pilot program for digital training and devices, Best Buy will offer digital literacy and tech skill training to the eligible residents and The James M. Cox Foundation will provide 1,500 discounted tablets pre-loaded with educational software to students and families in Macon participating in the program.

In a statement, the White House commented that local governments in Boston, Washington, Seattle and several other cities have already committed to supporting Connect Home.

San Antonio is among the 27 cities that will participate in the pilot program. Students, parents and the local school district welcomed the news with excitement.

"That would be very good," Perla Ortega said about the Connect Home program. Ortega's family have neither a computer nor Internet access at home. Ortega's son has to do his homework at school and when he's not able to, he asks his mother to take him to the public library.

Patricia Holub, San Antonio's interim Chief Information Officer, says:

"The initiative just speaks volumes to the goals we have to empower and equip our families for economic stability and to improve their quality of life."

If the pilot program is successful it will expand to more cities across the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro said:

"My hope is that it will demonstrate great results and will give us the opportunity in the future to think through how we could help expand it beyond this point. So we're focused on getting this right, and doing this as a demonstration project allows us to make sure that we get it right."

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