Closing the digital divide in our own backyard


How we’re bridging the digital divide

Students throughout the U.S. faced massive technology and connectivity gaps before the pandemic. Now, with COVID-induced remote learning, the situation is more urgent than ever. Many students cannot afford internet connectivity. Many don’t have personal laptops or tablets. And school districts are struggling to obtain the resources needed to support students who are now dependent on distance learning.  

 While the pandemic has presented tremendous challenges, it has also become a catalyst to find new ways, large and small, to bridge the digital divide. 

 As a global enterprise, ServiceNow believes in making the world of work, work better for all of us – students included. That’s why we partnered with the City of San José, CA, located near our headquarters, to help address the digital divide.  

 Despite being the largest city in Silicon Valley, many San José residents are excluded from the opportunities offered by the technologies developed in their own backyard. At the start of the pandemic, more than 67,000 students in San José didn’t have access to connectivity or devices. We’re proud to share that we have played a part in helping the City of San José reduce that number to approximately13,000 students in need. 

 "As cities nationally grapple with a digital divide laid bare by this pandemic, we applaud ServiceNow's creative partnership with Revivn that enables far more of our students to learn with high-quality computers than the traditional model of refurbishing used devices that children may or may not be able to actually use in class,” said Sam Liccardo, Mayor of San José . “Thank you to ServiceNow for stepping up to this more innovative approach to bridging our digital divide in San José and all of Silicon Valley." 

Closing the Digital Divide 

The City of San José  was the first city in the U.S. to pledge to close the digital divide by establishing the Digital Inclusion Partnership, a $24 million cross-sector fund with the goals of ensuring every single resident has a working device, enhancing digital literacy skills, and providing internet connectivity to every resident. In addition to providing devices to students, the City of San  José also works closely with each student’s family to ensure digital literacy training for parents through community-based organization grantees. 

 The Digital Inclusion Partnership is the City of San  José’s largest philanthropic effort in recent history. For its part the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG), in collaboration with Ernst & Young LLP (EY) and the CA Emerging Tech Fund (CETF), recently kicked off a Digital Divide Drive for the 2020/21 academic year asking its members, including ServiceNow, to help close the gap for students without access to computing devices. 

VP Kathy Mulvany talks about giving sutdents access to connectivity or devices

As a company, we were all in. In November and December, we donated more than 260 laptops to the program in partnership with Revivn, and we expect to donate thousands more in the coming year to the City of San  José as well as to programs in other cities including San Diego, CA and Kirkland, WA, where we have offices. It’s a win, win. We get to contribute to our broader sustainability efforts while playing a small part in addressing the needs of our local communities, and the City of San  José moves closer to their goal of a 1:1 student device ratio. 

 “This is a great example of how industry and government come together here in Silicon Valley to solve real world problems,” said Jordan Sun, Chief Innovation Officer, City of San  José. “We are very excited to have ServiceNow as our newest partner in digital inclusion. In April 2020, San José  schools started with a 67,000 device need. As of this month, the city and county delivered over 54,000 devices into the hands of students. The finish line is now in sight for a 1:1 device-student parity with 13,000 devices remaining in need for enabling adequate distanced learning.” 

Powering Donations with Workflows 

In addition to our devices, it was important that we contribute our skills and knowledge. We turned the donation cycle into a workflow using our own software. For the laptop donations that ServiceNow contributed this year, we used our  IT Asset Management (ITAM) product to search our local inventory and, based on our 3-year depreciation cycle, identify laptops to be retired and donated. From there, the entire workflow to return, replace, and prepare the device for donation was automated.   

 “ServiceNow workflows have been essential in quickly and efficiently identifying laptops to be donated to the Digital Divide Drive,” said Poonam Kripalani, Senior Manager, ITAM Governance at ServiceNow. “Using our ITAM solution, we can enlist the power of AI to automatically mark laptops that fit our donation criteria and, with just a few clicks, address a pressing need in our local communities by giving devices a second life and moving them into the hands of students as quickly as possible.” 

 Using our own technology to run our business every day is gratifying. But seeing our technology join forces with our Global Impact goals to make a direct impact in our local communities is especially rewarding. As the pandemic continues to upset the status quo and further expose inequalities in our world, I can only imagine the difference we could all make in our local communities if we collectively took part in these initiatives. Together we can turbocharge our impact as we enter 2021. 

 We are proud to support the important work being done by the City of San  José, SVLG, EY, and CETF to get technology in the hands of students who need it most. That’s a smarter way to workflow. 

Kathy Mulvany is head of global impact at ServiceNow. 

© 2020 ServiceNow, Inc. All rights reserved. ServiceNow, the ServiceNow logo, Now, and other ServiceNow marks are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of ServiceNow, Inc. in the United States and/or other countries. Other company names, product names, and logos may be trademarks of the respective companies with which they are associated. 

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