The State of Illinois has launched the Connect Illinois Computer Equity Network, which is intended to expand digital access for low-income households throughout the state.

The network, which is a partnership between the state and the nonprofit PCs for People, will deploy refurbished computers, digital literacy programming, and workforce development programs. The program comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for digital devices as telework, distance learning, and telehealth have spiked.

While 20,000 devices are the starting amount, Gov. Pritzker’s office noted that there are an estimated 1.1 million households in the state without a computer in the home. With that in mind, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is asking the public, private and philanthropic sectors to donate used equipment to build on the network that is already planning on deploying at least 20,000 refurbished computers annually.

“This new collaboration between our Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and the nonprofit PCs for People will provide refurbished and modernized computers to those in need,” said Governor Pritzker. “[W]e are kicking this off by providing the first 20,000 devices to families in need all across the state. As we grow the program, it’s businesses and philanthropists that will make this program successful. In the spirit of the holiday season, I’m asking Illinois companies to join us in this effort, to help build on this initial down payment. When your upgrade cycle gets renewed and your old technology no longer fits the needs of your company, you can donate it, and it will be upgraded for use by a family in need.”

PCs for People will operate the network while working alongside the Illinois Office of Broadband and other community partners, according to a press release. The release further explained that the network will use two centralized warehouses – one in southern Cook County and the other in the Metro East Region. Each warehouse will receive, refurbish, and redistribute computers for use by low-income households around the state.

“Now more than ever before, basic internet is a necessity in our daily lives, yet more than one million households still don’t have access to a computer,” said Erin Guthrie, director of DCEO.   “As the pandemic has shown, our communities are increasingly dependent on broadband for economic opportunity, e-learning, remote work, telehealth, and more. To help close the digital divide facing our communities, DCEO is proud to join Governor Pritzker in launching this first-of-its-kind initiative that will not only deliver computers and digital access, but that will boost the quality of life and expand economic opportunity for all Illinois communities.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs