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Pandemic highlights digital divide in Memphis

Kirstin Garriss

Apr 16, 2020

A WIFI connection has become a major part of the coronavirus pandemic but thousands of families don't have the same connection.

CodeCrew has done its best to bridge the digital divide across Memphis during the pandemic.

The computer science nonprofit works with 500 students a semester.

Shortly after the pandemic started, they learned about 100 of them didn't have internet access or technology at home.

"For those that don't have internet access, we've been trying to pair them with Comcast and their essentials program so they can get low-cost internet," said Meka Egwuekwe, CodeCrew Executive Director.

Thanks to a national grant, CodeCrew bought and delivered laptops to 12 students but their need is just a drop in the bucket.

According to census data, more than 80 percent of households in Washington Heights and South Memphis are living without internet access.

In Orange Mound and Frayser, it's more than 60 percent.

Paul Young is Memphis Housing & Community Development Director where his office is working on the best approach to address access.

"Whether it's trying to identify programs where you can get direct connections into the house or how you can you get customers signed up for some kind of service," said Young.

He said there's not much the city can do right now to address limited access. However, after the pandemic, Young said they're thinking about how to improve internet access through infrastructure.

"How can we ensure that we think about internet connectivity as a part of the structure just like we think of streets, highways and sewers, this is part of the future of our country," Young asked.

CodeCrew is in the process of preparing and then delivering 20 more laptops to its students.

After they fill this need, they want to help other students who aren't in the program and need technical support.

If you want to donate to CodeCrews efforts, you can visit their website.

Check out the Fox 13 Memphis article here


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