This blog was originally published by the Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition and can be found in full here. Thanks to Nicole Fall and Christina Ralls for sharing Tyrese’s story. This blog has been edited for length and style for Byte Back.
This is one of a series of articles from the Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition. BDEC members Nicole Fall and Christina Ralls spoke with Tyrese Myers, a Byte Back student and mother. While the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the inequity of access to technology, the need has actually been apparent for some time.
Tyrese Myers, 35, is a student of Byte Back, an organization that provides technical training that leads to living-wage jobs. A student there since February 2019, Tyrese has earned her Microsoft Office Specialist, Word certification and is working on another certification in Excel. She has also learned job interviewing skills and is looking for a position as an administrative assistant. Tyrese lives in Northeast Baltimore.
She is a foster mother and has another child, so Tyrese has a good deal to say about the current state of access to Wi-Fi and devices for youth in schools. When the quarantine started, she had four children living with her.
“Since the pandemic started in February, the connectivity has been very off. It’s been a struggle. I am a foster mom, so I do have children that have to be in virtual school and the connectivity is horrible. Everything is run by internet like your televisions, phones, Wi-Fi , computers, laptops, tablets, etc.
Tyrese talked about the school system giving every household one laptop and one hotspot. She said that Byte Back was able to provide more devices for her family, but still struggles with having enough bandwidth at home. When asked about using other available resources like libraries for connectivity, Tyrese says that there are children who still do not have computers and Wi-Fi at home, so the libraries are difficult to go to as there are many waiting to use them. When asked about the resources that Byte Back provided, Tyrese offered glowing praise:
“I was able to obtain certifications to get a better career to take care of myself and my family in a better way. So yes, I’m very grateful. And I really stumbled across it on a on a whim, actually, because I was going to South Baltimore Learning Center just to increase my skills in math for my kids, because now the math is totally different from what I remember. Yeah, I felt so out of place. So I looked online, and I went down to South Baltimore Learning Center. So then Chrissie, James, and my teacher, Mr. Craig, came into the classroom, and they pitched about Byte Back and I was interested and they couldn’t have come at a better time. We’d had to do everything virtually. So that was like a double plus for me… because at first, I didn’t have technical knowledge, really.”
Tyrese’s story highlights the digital divide in Baltimore, a problem that continues to be exasperated by COVID-19 shutdowns.
Members of the Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition, including Byte Back, are working together to close the digital divide in Baltimore City. We invite you to learn more about BDEC’s efforts and how to get involved. If you or someone you know needs support accessing a device, obtaining a reliable internet connection, and/or digital skills training, we are collecting local resources on our Resource Page. We also invite everyone to celebrate Digital Inclusion Week 2020 with us, sharing stories of how the digital divide impacts Baltimore residents and what can be done about it.