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Funding bridges the digital divide in Palm Beach County

In a world that is seemingly always connected, there are still those who cannot take advantage of internet access. According to the 2014-2018 US Census American Community Survey in Palm Beach County, 17%, or 92,000 households, were not connected to high-speed internet. Those households also earn 2.3 times less income, are 4 times less likely to have at least a bachelor’s degree, and were expected to live 8.4 years less.

Now, the Palm Beach community has gathered to bridge this digital divide. Community Partners of South Florida has received nearly $500,000 in grants from Quantum Foundation, Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties and other funders. The money will be used to create four full-time positions dedicated to bringing technology access and education to areas of most need in Palm Beach County within the Digital Divide Pilot Program. According to Quantum president Eric Kelly, the five pillars of the program are infrastructure (ensuring towers reach specific areas), a quality devices component (making routers and computers readily available), high-speed internet access, affordability and technology literacy.

Through the program, the CPSFL will hire four community technology navigators and a project manager to work with residents in their homes or at community sites to provide internet service, devices, training, tech support, and educational content. Residents in the western communities of Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay, Riviera Beach, and the north end of West Palm Beach will be provided with needed services—either access to WiFi, hardware to connect, education, or all of these things on a case-by-case basis.

Quantum Foundation and other funders anticipate that these actions will allow individuals to access employment opportunities, families to be better able to apply for benefits, seniors to have an easier time refilling prescriptions or participating in a telemedicine visit, and children to get help with virtual schooling—all solutions that can impact a community’s health and well-being.

“Data shows that residents of the most disconnected neighborhoods are expected to learn less, earn less, and live less than the average county residents,” says Eric Kelly, president of Quantum Foundation. “While water, electricity, and mail are known essentials to our society, WiFi has become as vital to our lives as these other utilities. The existing digital divide, made worse by the sudden shift to virtual learning and remote working, has created an environment in which equity gaps are likely to widen for a significant portion of our county’s population. The resulting negative outcomes are expected to further increase the burden placed upon healthcare providers, local governments, and nonprofit organizations to address the consequences of the digital divide. CPSFL, with its comprehensive approach to equity for all residents across housing, mental health and community services, is the ideal strategic partner to help us close the digital divide.”

Recipients will be chosen on a referral basis from schools and nonprofit organizations, and navigators will work with the clients, primarily those lower-income households with students, working-age residents, and seniors with no preset eligibility requirements. The navigator will connect households with available resources and services they qualify for from government resources, and those who do not meet eligibility requirements will be connected with equipment as funding becomes available.

 “Digital equity is essential in our efforts to give under-connected communities the access and opportunity they deserve,” said Brad Hurlburt, CFPBMC CEO. “Nonprofit, business, and government must work in partnership with residents and community leaders to close the digital divide so that children have an equal playing field when it comes to their education.”  

To learn more about opportunities with the pilot program, click here.

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky

Editor-in-Chief

BIOGRAPHY

Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.