Professional services firm Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) launched an initiative in 2020 to support underserved students by helping organizations facilitate hardware access, connectivity, and mentorship. The effort, Bridging the Digital Divide, is part of the EY US social justice commitment to taking decisive action against racism and discrimination. The firm is doing this by leveraging its influence to drive strategic change in the communities where it works and to support policies that promote digital readiness.
“When it comes to the pursuit of racial and social justice, there’s no finish line, just a long-standing commitment to build a better world,” said Kevin Brown, EY Bridging the Digital Divide Executive Sponsor.
Jacksonville, FL was one of the first cities selected to launch Bridging the Digital Divide because of its need for digital readiness support and its robust nonprofit community. Census.gov data of Jacksonville households revealed that 6.4% of households lack access to computers and more than 12% of residents lack a broadband internet subscription. As a result, more than 55,000 Jacksonville students need mentorship, training, and devices.
The EY Jacksonville office teamed up with five local nonprofits – Sanctuary on 8th Street, Parent Academy, the Duval County Chapter of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, Communities In Schools of Jacksonville
and the Sulzbacher Center – to support an organized, sustainable approach to coordinating access to devices, connectivity, and mentorship.
“The EY Digital Divide program is a huge game changer for students living in underserved communities,” said Rick Cartlidge, Executive Director of Sanctuary on 8th Street, one of the nonprofits. “EY US has connected us with great mentors, tools, and resources, and they are a blessing to us.”
Bridging the Divide has reached more than 800 young people and adults in the community, with mentorship opportunities making an impact.
“Access to abundant information without the right mentor is like a dam without a flood gate – there is too much to consume at a time,” said Dwarakesh Ravichandran, Technology Consulting Manager, EY US. “Mentorship should nurture the sense of belonging and guide younger generations to visualize success. Having the right mentors who represent them creates a long-lasting impact toward their future.”
Additionally, the program’s employee-raised funds have been used to purchase laptops for underserved graduating students with the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, and EY community engagement funds helped to purchase hardware and support internet connectivity for Sanctuary on 8th Street.
Together, EY US and the Jacksonville nonprofit organizations have helped community members access more digital resources in pursuit of healthier, more connected and successful lives.