In Depth: Bridging the digital divide with Digital Inclusion Fellow Margo Scurry

In Depth

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is trying to address digital inequity in Mecklenburg County. Time Warner Cable News anchor Rob Boisvert spoke with Digital Inclusion Fellow Margo Scurry on the program In Depth about the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library's efforts, and why it takes teamwork to reach people most in need. A transcript of the interview is below. [Watch the segment online.]

TWC News anchor Rob Boisvert: Charlotte Mecklenburg Library is trying to decrease the digital divide in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Margo Scurry joins us right now. [To Scurry:] You're in charge of an effort that is doing just that. You don't actually work for the Library, though, right?

Scurry: Right. Actually, I'm assigned to the Library. I'm one of 12 Digital Inclusion Fellows all over the country that have been sent out to help bridge the digital divide. 

Boisvert: This is a Digital Inclusion Fellow with the Nonprofit Technology Network, which is NTEN.

Scurry: Right.

Boisvert: How do you go about doing that, considering that there are some families which, #1) don't have computers in their homes, and #2) don't have money to pay for access to the internet? What do you do? 

Scurry: We realize that about 60 million Americans don't have internet in their homes. 50,000 of them are right here in Mecklenburg County. The Library's been doing digital training and offering free computer use for well over 20 year. But this effort is more of a focused effort to go after those who have been marginalized digitally—who are really left behind. 

Boisvert: When you say "go after," what do you mean?

Scurry: We're trying to have programs that allow them access to some of the things that we have. We have access to the internet; we use internet every day.

Boisvert: Sure—we don't even think about it.

Scurry: Right! Whether it's to do homework, or to look for a job, or to even look up health care questions. But many people don't have it in the home. The Library offers a lot of services in our branches. This effort is to try and do that as well in the branches—to enhance it and promote it—but also take it to the community where they are. So we're willing to actually take our training into the communities, wherever they need it the most. 

Boisvert: Is their evidence, even if it's anecdotal at this point, that having access in a home helps children scholastically? 

Scurry: Definitely. Some of the latest studies say that 70% of homework assigned is online. I think that number is pretty low—it's probably out-of-date. Most kids have homework, and we wouldn't even think about the fact that a parent might have to get in the car after coming home, and take their kids to sit in the McDonald's parking lot just to get Wi-Fi so they can finish their homework. Or take them back to a Library. So having that access in the home is very important. 

Boisvert: You really just touched on something there. I think a lot of people would applaud your efforts, but we're still left with the fact that people need to go to the Library to access this.

Scurry: Not necessarily. 

Boisvert: Okay. Explain this. 

Scurry: Right. This year we actually have our digital literacy brand—it's called DigiLit. We have two programs we're offering in the library. One of them is called DigiLit 101; it's a 12-hour comprehensive series. We have another which is called DigiLit Lite which is just basically "do it at your own pace." And then we have what we call DigiLit Community where we are actually strategically partnering with community groups so that we can bring it to them. And we have recently done classes for seniors over in a senior apartment complex in University City—several around the city with seniors. We're doing this with immigrant populations, the homeless population. And rather than them have the barrier of getting to the Library, we're willing to take the training to them. 

Boisvert: Well, Margo, I really appreciate your efforts there, and thank you much for joining us.

Scurry: Thank you very much. 

Want to help? 

The Library is actively seeking partnering agencies to bring DigiLit Community to more people in Mecklenburg County. Learn more about partnering with the Library on digital inclusion efforts.