5 Ways to Help Close the Digital Divide in Detroit

Published on September 23, 2021 in ,

Oct. 4-7 is Digital Inclusion Week

Digital Inclusion week aims to raise awareness of solutions addressing home internet access, personal devices, technology, new innovation, training and support platforms for Detroit citizens and small businesses.

Join Connect 313 for conversations on policy and advocacy, film screenings, educational events and more.


Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 40 percent of Detroit residents did not have an internet connection in their home. This created a digital divide that prevented many Detroiters from benefiting from the opportunities internet access offers.

The pandemic only made things more difficult. As schools and many essential services went virtual, the digital divide widened for families who could not afford or didn’t have the digital literacy skills necessary to access the internet.

“COVID-19 exacerbated some of the existing inequalities in Detroit,” said Alexandra Hill, director of digital equity and inclusion initiatives for United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “We saw that many Detroit children didn’t have devices, or even if their school was providing them, they didn’t necessarily have internet at home or nearby.

“Similarly, many of Detroit’s senior population lacked devices, internet connectivity, and/or the skills to utilize their devices.”

In 2020, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, the City of Detroit, Rocket Community Fund and Microsoft, along with other community partners, joined forces to establish the Connect 313 collaborative. Its mission is to close the digital divide in Detroit by 2024.

To accomplish this, the Connect 313 coalition has multiple initiatives at play, all of which are supported by United Way:

  1. Increasing internet access throughout Detroit with a focus on hotspot lending at libraries
  2. Increasing access to affordable internet options through the federal Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB)
  3. And establishing partnerships with internet providers with a goal of offering free WiFi at locations across the city, as well as expanding access to devices.

The ultimate goal? To provide the opportunity for internet access, technology and digital literacy programming within a 10-minute walk of every Detroit resident’s home.

There are several ways that you can help close that digital divide and increase digital literacy in Detroit. Here’s how you can get started.

kids holding laptops in a gym

Through the Connect 313 collaborative, thousands of families and students have been connected with technology and internet access.

Promote the Emergency Broadband Benefit

The EBB is a federal program funded by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that aims to help families and households who have struggled to afford internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program provides eligible households with a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service, as well as a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating providers.

“The FCC is relying on organizations like the Connect 313 coalition to push that information out to their constituents,” said Jordan Falby, United Way’s program manager of digital equity and inclusion for the Connect 313 collaborative. “Unlike some of the more rural areas where internet access is based on lack of infrastructure, access to digital devices and connectivity in Detroit is more about affordability — we want people to know an affordable internet connection is available to them.”

AT&T, Xfinity, EarthLink and WOW! are just a few of the internet service providers serving the Detroit area and participating in the EBB program.

Connect 313 also offers assistance to those who wish to register for the EBB program. Experts are standing by Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. to help residents determine if they’re eligible for the free EBB. If you know someone who needs support with affordable internet access, direct them to call 313-241-7618 today.

Donate used technology to Connect 313

Even if a family has an internet connection, they may not be able to afford devices to access those benefits. One of Connect 313’s partner organizations, Human-I-T, strives to give new life to old technology to fulfill that need.

Human-I-T accepts e-waste donation s such as desktop computers, laptops, printers and more. Rather than scrapping or recycling these devices, Human-I-T refurbishes most of the items it receives and repurposes them to benefit students, low-income families and nonprofits across the U.S.

Donating unwanted technology for refurbishment not only helps those in need, but it also reduces the amount of energy spent recycling devices and creating, packing and shipping new items. Donations to Human-I-T are tax-deductible with nationwide pickup and free shipping for qualified donations.

If you’re interested in donating technology via Human-I-T, you can find more information and a list of accepted devices on their website.

Volunteer in your community

Volunteering is a great way to improve digital literacy. Volunteers are the backbone of Human-I-T, and donating time is vital when it comes to shrinking the digital divide and reducing e-waste.

For more information on volunteering with Human-I-T, visit their website. The organization welcomes volunteers with various experience levels as long as they are 18 years or older, and able to lift and carry up to 25 pounds.

Share your voice with Connect 313

Is there something you think Connect 313 should do to address the digital divide in your community, or maybe something we should do differently? Share a simple or detailed suggestion with Connect 313 via this convenient online form.

A simple suggestion is any idea that you’d like to see Connect 313 bring to life in your community. It doesn’t necessarily need to include details like an estimated budget, goals and metrics, or specific outcomes.

A detailed suggestion is a project or program that you would like Connect 313 to support you and/or your team or organization with bringing to life or expanding. A detailed suggestion would include more specific information, including a budget breakdown, goals and metrics, and specific outcomes.

Donate to ensure digital inclusion

The digital divide in Detroit presents a host of problems for Detroit residents, impacting job opportunities and education as well as access to tele-health and mental health care, just to name a few.

Your gift to support Connect 313 will help connect Detroiters with the tools they need to learn and communicate. Donate to the fund using this form.