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VIEWPOINT: Let’s keep access to digital tools intact

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Access to technology means access to the resources and skills to succeed and thrive in modern life. And in 2022, that means every man, woman, and child needs not just a reliable internet connection, but the right equipment ­– a dependable desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile device ­– and digital literacy to reach their full potential.

Markevis Gideon, Founder of NERDiT Now

I realized at a young age, when I was just 12 years old and a teacher gave me my first computer, that technology could unlock untapped and untold opportunities for all. As that machine powered up, I was immediately hooked and soon developed the skills to build and repair my own computer – skills that I later leveraged in my career and carried with me to become an entrepreneur.

My computer and mobile devices repair company, NERDiT Now and its affiliated philanthropic foundation are dedicated to giving back to the community by ensuring technology is accessible and affordable – and that it empowers and inspires. Just as that teacher introduced me to the promise of computing at a young age, NERDiT Now’s mission is to equip Delaware families and small businesses with the equipment and skills required to bridge the digital and opportunity divides.

After already donating hundreds of computers, including the full computer lab at St. Patrick’s Center, the pandemic hit. As schools and offices closed and life shifted online, so did our focus. We knew we needed to get as many computers into as many hands as possible. First, we prepared 100 computers for donation and then grants started to come in from Discovery Bank, Barclays, and Capital One. Within the first few months of the pandemic, over 800 laptops were distributed to local schools. Soon hundreds became thousands.

The business also expanded rapidly with a retail and repair shop, a used tech recycling and distribution center, and an IT training program. Desktops and laptops are refurbished and donated to the communities that need them most when companies bring us in to recycle during office upgrades. True to our mission, the IT training program teaches the skills needed to step into not just the tech jobs at our facilities but the career paths of the future.

Larger tech firms are working within our communities to make an impact locally, too. Urban Tech Hero, a nonprofit focused on lifting underserved youth out of poverty through IT technical training, has partnered with Google to provide career certifications and award 100 student scholarships. And following hundreds of entries from around the country, Dover-based startup Rush Roto was recently selected to receive $125,000 and $100,000 in services by the Amazon Web Services Impact Accelerator for Black Founders.

Our government leaders here in Delaware and in DC have rightly prioritized internet access and championed universal broadband. Governor Carney last year announced that $110 million of American Rescue Plan Funding will be dedicated to updating Delaware’s internet infrastructure to bring affordable internet connections to every home and business in the state. Their next steps should include partnering with tech firms of all sizes – from startups like mine to the Silicon Valley power players – to support digital skills training programs and assist in providing devices to all that need them. As a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Businesses and Entrepreneurship, Senator Chris Coons has been a crucial partner throughout the pandemic and a strong advocate for American technology and innovation.

Unfortunately, others in Washington are too often focused on taking a tough stance against tech, not collaborating with the industry to provide the tools to ensure every American from Wilmington to Wasilla reaches their full potential.

But let’s put politics aside and work together. I stand ready to collaborate with government and tech firms of all sizes to make certain no one goes without the technology and resources to build bridges and finally close the digital and opportunity divides.

 Markevis Gideon is the Founder of NERDiT Now.

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