As the adage goes, “all good things come must come to an end.” In that spirit, we wrap up our series featuring stories from Voqal’s 2020 Annual Report Spotlight. In this final look back at 2020, we highlight an organization that, with the help of Mobile Citizen, helped connect individuals to the internet during a time of unprecedented need, Human-I-T.
What was unnecessary six months ago has now become commonplace: we need to go online to make sure that the park across town is actually open. To get a pattern for a homemade surgical mask. To download an audiobook because the public library is closed indefinitely.
Sometimes it’s about convenience or saving time; just as often, an internet connection is about empowering ourselves. Getting online allows you to visit the state Employment Office to check on your benefits instead of calling and hearing a whole lot of busy signals. It can mean the difference between being able to pay rent and having to negotiate a delay with a landlord. Online resources are the very best place to look for voting resources and ballot drop boxes, especially in these uncertain times.
But all of these activities require hardware like a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, or a desktop computer. And they all require reliable access to the internet. Even if you could just make a call, the chances that someone will be there to answer are slim to none. Accessing websites is, in many cases, the only way to get information and communicate efficiently and safely with others during this global pandemic. These days, information is power, and being able to show up virtually is the only way to interact, plan, work, and play with others.
Communities that don’t have the financial means, the technology resources, or the help they need find themselves disadvantaged in the COVID-19 era, especially when traditional sources of community news and empowerment like schools, libraries, and churches are not as available.
human-I-T, an 8-year-old 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Southern California, and a reseller of Mobile Citizen, understands that technology is just as important to daily life as any other public utility. AJ Middleton, senior programs manager, notes that their average Mobile Citizen customer is a parent of a family who needs a connection for school-age kids and for their own work as well. Many families find that sharing a single device isn’t working in the era of COVID-19, as everyone needs to be online so often throughout the day. human-I-T can support a family as they supplement their devices or switch to a low-cost internet connection, which helps reduce household expenses.
human-I-T’s goal is to help each individual and their family, group, or organization in the way that makes the best sense for them. They offer guidance on the solutions that make sense in each client’s situation.
“We’re providing a service that is more important now than ever,” Middleton says. And the demand for human-I-T’s services clearly shows this: They’ve gone from serving 1000 people to 4-5000 each month since COVID-19 lockdowns began.
Their client base includes low-income K-12 families, school districts, housing communities, and community-based organizations in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Detroit, and they can also connect people across the country as well, as long as they’re within Mobile Citizen’s service area.
Getting people online in underserved communities means that more students can go to school. More community groups can stay in touch. Public health experts can transmit accurate news to the people. More families can communicate about their needs. Fewer of us get left out of the loop. We can all stay connected, informed, and empowered.
human-I-T, as AJ Middleton says, shares an important goal with Voqal and Mobile Citizen — to bridge the digital divide. Today, strengthening that bridge is critical. Leaving people with no way to access education, social services, or information is not an option in the COVID-19 era, and it harms all of us in the long run. We’re all in this together, and partners like human-I-T understand this. By reselling Mobile Citizen’s internet service human-I-T plays an important role in keeping underserved communities connected and healthy.
To learn more about our work in 2020, download the full annual report here.