EY’s Erika Patterson on How To Build a Better Working World by Bridging the Digital Divide

Originally published at ey.com. Erika Patterson is EY’s Americas Corporate Responsibility Director. EY is a Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Hall of Fame company.

EY is standing against systemic racism in education by helping to provide internet connectivity, digital devices and online mentoring to underserved students.

A significant learning gap became sharply apparent when schools moved from classrooms to home computers during the current public health crisis.

Stay-at-home orders to minimize the spread of COVID-19 have forced students into online classes, but distance learning is only effective if a household has three key components available: a residential internet connection; a desktop, laptop or tablet computer; and engaged adult mentors to help navigate academic success.

  • In the US, 35% of low-income homes with children do not have high-speed internet
  • At home, 25% of students do not have a desktop or laptop computer
  • Of the young adults who face a learning gap but have a mentor, 55% are more likely to enroll in college than those who do not have a mentor

Regardless of income, students of color are less likely to have the technology resources for distance learning. The reason is likely because minority students, regardless of income, tend to live in communities with underfunded schools and less advanced broadband infrastructure.

Without aggressive initiatives from the private sector, low-income and minority students will fall further behind because of COVID-19.

At EY, we believe that business can be a force for social good. That’s why we are committed to helping underserved students by joining forces with organizations to facilitate access to devices, the internet and mentoring. Our Bridging the Digital Divide initiative is helping underserved students succeed by:

  • Teaming with not-for-profit (NFP) organizations like the United Way and the private sector to provide the technology tools (internet and hardware) that students need to participate in online learning with their educational institutions (K-12, post-secondary)
  • Engaging our EY professionals to be volunteer mentors so underserved students can navigate fundamental changes to the education system caused by COVID-19 (through programs like EY College MAP, Reading Partners, NFTE and Strive for College)

I’m extremely proud of the progress, especially the hard work of our EY leaders and professionals, plus the NFPs and private-sector organizations who have helped get us this far:

  • Raised $1.5 million through the United Way campaign
  • Raised $4.3 million through the convening power of our EY office managing partners
  • There are 10+ confirmed hardware and connectivity partners
  • In 2020, 5,400+ EY Americas volunteer mentors positively impacted 737,000 lives

Our ambition is to impact at least 1.5 million lives and deliver 40,000 mentoring hours to underserved students. I invite you to visit our Bridging the Digital Divide site to learn more about this inspiring initiative and how you can help.


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