According to a county official, two teenage girls in California used Taco Bell’s free WiFi to access their schoolwork from the restaurant’s parking lot, as millions of children return to school online from the comfort of home. The truth was caught in a single snapshot that went viral on social media, highlighting the long-standing digital gap in the United States.
Two females can be seen in the picture sitting on the Taco Bell sidewalk with computers on their laps and a pencil and paper on the sidewalk in front of them. Beside them, two Taco Bell staffers can be seen, one of them is kneeling down to greet them.
According to a report published in June 2020 by Common Sense Media and the Boston Consulting Group, around 15 to 16 million K-12 public school children in the United States live in homes with poor internet connections or have gadgets that aren’t prepared for distant learning. “We have to do better & fix this digital gap once & for all for all California children,” Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo tweeted on Wednesday after seeing the picture on Instagram.
He told CNN, “California is the world’s technological hub, and this is an embarrassment.” “Salinas Valley is 45 minutes from Silicon Valley, and there’s such a massive separation here that’s been for years, but it’s just become worse because of this epidemic.” Alejo said he doesn’t know who the kids in the photograph are or why they went to Taco Bell, but he believes the snapshot captures the larger image of the reality that many students and parents confront.
“We are aware that hundreds of other children are in a similar predicament. There are many houses and parents in Salinas who have no idea how to use computers or how hotspots function.” After seeing the photo circulate, the Salinas City Elementary School District (SCESD) promptly recognized the pupils, according to Richard Gebin, public relations officer for the Salinas City Elementary School District (SCESD). “The digital gap is very real,” Amy Ish, president of the Salinas City Elementary School District, said in a release. “Delays in acquiring critical technology are a statewide problem.” “We appreciate the State’s commitment to technology and look forward to getting these hotspots in our Area.”
The district would not name the children or their parents for reasons of privacy and security. The district is fully committed to distant learning, claiming to have delivered 8,245 Chromebooks, 1,500 hotspots, and 2,500 more hotspots on the way. “We cannot regard technology as a luxury; it is a need of existence, and it should be treated as a utility like water, electricity, and gas,” Alejo added. “The snapshot of two young girls outside of a Salinas, CA Taco Bell is a h-arsh reminder of basic injustices plaguing our communities,” a Taco Bell spokeswoman told CNN in a statement.
“We and our partners have always been dedicated to promoting kids’ education,” Taco Bell said in an email statement. “The owner of this store is exploring more ways to benefit these children and the larger community.” According to research from Common Sense Media and the Boston Consulting Group, while access to the internet is a problem across the country, in California, 25 per cent (1,529,000) of the state’s K-12 students lack adequate internet access and 17 per cent (1,063,000) lack sufficient devices for correspondence courses.
In terms of the states with the biggest number of pupils without proper access, California is second only to Texas.