Editorial: Connecting kids

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 1, 2008

Connecting kidsMuch has been said about improving the use of technology in Rowan-Salisbury schools. But Kentucky recently launched a program to address a more pressing need for youngsters headed toward the workforce ó computers in the home.
ConnectKentucky is a nonprofit organization that has been expanding broadband Internet connections in rural areas, a mission that the Wall Street Journal recently recognized as an economic development success story. In three years’ time, the portion of households using high-speed Internet service in the state rose from 24 percent to 44 percent. Organizers say the increase has helped attract jobs.
Along the way to more connectivity, ConnectKentucky leaders realized that increased access is not much help to families that don’t have computers in the home. So it developed “No Child Left Offline” to fill the gap. Companies such as Lexmark and Microsoft donate computers for poor children, and the state chips in, too. So far, about 2,000 computers have been given out.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 31 percent of low-income children had access to a home computer in 2001, compared to 89 percent of their middle- to upper-class peers. The digital divide has closed slightly in recent years, but to a child who cannot do research on the Internet via a home computer, it yawns as wide as ever. Thousands of Rowan children could benefit from a program like No Child Left Offline.