In a new report, Liu — who is also running for mayor — urges the city to partner with technology companies to provide refurbished computers to students who otherwise might not have a computer in college. He also recommends that the city encourage businesses to donate their outdated computer equipment to schools; and expand nonprofit programs that place computers in students’ homes and train students to repair their schools’ computers.
The report on closing the “digital literacy divide” is the latest in a series about how the city can boost the number of its students who graduate from college and contribute to its economy. Altogether, Liu, who is responsible for the city’s fiscal stewardship, calls for nearly $40 million a year in new spending on computers and technology programs. (Expanding the student-led computer support program could save the city $15 million a year, according to the report.)
The report does not mention mobile technology, which a study released last month by the Pew Internet and American Life Project suggested might be closing the digital divide in some ways.
Smartphone ownership is equally pervasive for low-income and middle-class teenagers, the study found, with low-income teens more frequently using their phones as their main way to get online.
But Connor Osetek, a spokesman for Liu, said mobile technology does not facilitate the kind of “educational space” in children’s homes that is associated with improved academic performance. He also said the kind of academic work that the city wants students to do can’t be done well using smartphones.
“We believe that wireless technology is absolutely important, but if the purpose is really to get students engaged in academics, there’s no substitute for a regular computer (including laptops and netbooks) with broadband internet access,” Osetek said. “Things like conducting research and writing papers just can’t be accomplished nearly as well with wireless technology.”
Previous reports in “Beyond High School NYC” series called for the city to spend $176 million a year on guidance counselors to help more students get into college and to overhaul the city’s school board, known as the Panel for Educational Policy.
The latest report is below: