PCs for People addresses next steps in closing digital divide

thumbnail_kid on computer.jpg
Posted at 10:13 AM, Mar 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-15 11:13:37-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — School districts had to quickly adjust their curriculum to teach in a virtual setting after the pandemic hit a year ago.

One of the biggest issues COVID-19 shed light on was the digital divide.

Lack of computers or access to high-speed internet was a challenge for many students and families in the area.

Last August, Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools technology director, Joe Phillips was transparent about the struggle of getting everyone devices and hot spots.

"What COVID really did was, when we had to shift our school district to digital learning or distance learning or virtual learning, we were not prepared. We did not have students with our devices, and what we also didn't have is just regular internet access at home for a lot of our families. Our families didn't have computers at home," Phillips said in an interview last August.

Since the start of the 2020-2021 school year, Phillips stated each student would have a device for remote learning.

41 Action News caught up with the nonprofit Connecting for Good, which is now a PCs for People organization. Executive Director Tom Esselman said the digital divide isn't a conversation that needs to end, as more schools are reopening.

He and his team are collaborating with partners to grant more people high-speed internet access in the Kansas City area.

"We've been fortunate to foster some really strong relationships in the community in ways that we never thought would be this intense," Esselman said.

They're working with a number of different organizations, including KCPS and LeanLab Education.

"I'm so thrilled to be in the Kansas City community. We have a really really strong and supportive philanthropic community," Esselman said. "And all kinds of foundations and family trusts and groups have pitched in working with groups like the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, The Kauffman Foundation and many others to provide funding to make sure that that the schools and the families get what they need."

They're working on establishing long-term solutions to the digital divide.

"We're working very closely with these partners now to say, what can we do to structurally solve the problem so that it's the right kind of internet, and it's the right kind of device," Esselman said. "What are those long-term things that we need to do to prevent this from ever being a problem going forward."

Esselman says they're working on building new WiFi networks and also collaborating with major internet providers.

"Providers like Google Fiber and Spectrum and AT&T, to further broadcast those signals in areas that represent low-income housing apartment complexes, neighborhoods that typically have not had strong and reliable home internet," Esselman said. "So that they no longer have to just rely on a mobile device to get internet."

For more information on PCs for People, visit their website.

The Rebound Kansas City is our effort is to help metro residents play a role in moving our community forward. We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas to via email to and we welcome you to join in the conversation on the Rebound KC Facebook Group.

Whether you're Getting Back to Work after a layoff, need help Making Ends Meet during these trying times or need tips on Managing the Pressure we're all feeling, The Rebound has resources to find help. We'll also make sure local leaders are Doing What's Right to get Kansas City back track after a three-month shutdown.

Need a job? Be sure to visit our local jobs board powered by Indeed.