Life-changing technology is all around us. In the past year, I’ve seen digital technology provide color for the color blind and hearing for the deaf. Not only can digital communication be a source of dramatic life changes, but it has become a fundamental part of education and surviving in America as an increasing number of jobs required some digital skills. But like many American institutions, not everyone has equal access. People like you and I do, obviously, because you’re reading this from an online source, but not everyone is as fortunate. Although more African Americans are gaining access to technology among mid- to upper-level incomes,  digital literacy (knowing how to create and understand online content) is still a very prevalent issue. With that said, closing the digital divide takes more than giving people devices and access to the internet, much of it has to do with teaching digital literacy skills. One program at the San Quentin State Prison is trying to close that gap.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation recently embraced a novel idea called Code.7370. The Code.7370 program at San Quentin State Prison offers a chance for inmates to learn entry-level software development skills. It’s one of many initiatives intended to reduce rates of recidivism. amd also happens to be a great alternative to pressing license plates. Just over 65 percent of those released from California’s prison system return within three years. Much of that has to do with not being able to find work when they get out. Code.7370 teaches inmates specialized skills that are necessary for full participation in our media-saturated, information-rich society upon their release.

This emerges at a time when coding is being considered one of the essential skills for the 21st century.  Code boot camps are popping up all over the country, largely in tech hubs like Austin, San Francisco, Seattle and  Charlotte. Through a boot camp like this, a Charlotte woman went from working as a janitor to a programmer in a matter of eight weeks. These skills are especially important for black men who experience a higher rate of recidivism, almost three times as high as whites. The 21st-century student could be a single mother, a grandfather, a soldier, an entrepreneur or to San Quentin State Prison, an inmate. Programs like these offer a new perspective on who the 21st-century student is, and a new doorway to enter the software developing world. What other programs are providing a way for the less fortunate to become digitally literate?

What other programs are providing a way for the less fortunate to become digitally literate? Let me know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter (@yea_me2) using #blavitychat.

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