Calling All Innovators: California Offers $1 Million to Anyone Who Can Close The State’s Digital Divide

California is desperately searching for ways to end disparities in student access to digital technology.

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond announced a $1 million prize last week to anyone who could help the state close its digital divide. That would require expanding high-speed internet to the 945,000 kids — 16% of school-aged children — who currently lack access.

“It’s a call to action. The real prize beyond theprestige that the inventors will garner is that the technology will serve tens of millions and make tens of billions," said Gary Michelson, founder of Michelson Philanthropies. His company is working with the California Department of Education, biotech company Genentech, and General Motors on the endeavor. 

California’s digital divide is nothing new, but the implications have grown tremendously during the pandemic as so many schools have turned to distance learning. Lack of connectivity is more prevalent among low-income, less educated, rural, African American, and Latino households, according to the public Policy Institute of California. Consequently, the digital divide is exaccerbating the socioeconomic and racial inequities that produced it in the first place.


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