Bridging the Digital Divide

enFocus marks a decade of hi-tech problem solving in the region

August 15, 2022

SpectrumX Director and Notre Dame Wireless Institute Co-Director Nick Laneman was quoted in this story regarding how the Citywide Classroom South Bend (CCSB) partnered with the Wireless Institute and the Notre Dame Office of Information Technologies to lead the way piloting a private LTE network which can reach 1,000 families. The access will be broadcast from three towers.

Original story found here:

enFocus is leading a new pilot program to bring an ambitious new connectivity option to students and their families.

A mother and son sit on a blanket in the grass. The sun wearing glasses plays on a laptop computer while the mother watches.
R.J. Thrist uses a hotspot to connect to the internet while his mother, Tabitha Williams, looks on at Howard Park in South Bend.

R.J. Thrist, a second-grader in South Bend, likes to go online to watch cartoons or NFL football, but he also uses his school-provided Chromebook to log in to assignments his teacher posts, listen to books read aloud, play math games and turn in homework projects.

The challenge for his mother, Tabitha Williams, is paying the fees for that online connection. Even a program to provide internet access for $10 a month could be too much when she sometimes had to choose between paying for basics: food, gas, medicine and utilities.

“It’s been amazing. It’s so helpful and I’m so thankful for a program during this time that’s so hard. It’s something we rely on day to day.”—Tabitha Williams

Williams, 43, who is on disability after badly injuring her arm at work, recently moved in with her brother because her rent was too high. She was thrilled when Citywide Classroom South Bend gave R.J. a hotspot device that can be used for internet access.

“It’s been amazing,” she said. “It’s so helpful and I’m so thankful for a program during this time that’s so hard. It’s something we rely on day to day.”

Williams and her son face a situation common to up to 30 percent of South Bend public school students who lack a reliable internet connection in a world that progressively requires that access for daily activities — from schoolwork to ordering food to job applications.

Several years ago, South Bend public schools recognized that they needed high-tech solutions to bridge this digital divide. They turned to enFocus, a nonprofit organization and regional resource for talent attraction that grew out of Notre Dame’s Engineering, Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Excellence Master’s (ESTEEM) program.

Read the rest of the story:

Produced by the University of Notre Dame Office of Public Affairs and Communications
Written by Brendan O’Shaughnessy
Photography: Matt Cashore, Peter Ringenberg, Steve Toepp