CELEBRATE | September 29, 2020

GEW Minnesota: Closing the Digital Divide

Photo Credit:

Global Entrepreneurship Week in Minnesota will bring community, business, and local musicians together, building bonds and resilience in recovery from the George Floyd Protests.

Project Nandi, a social enterprise start-up, will be fund raising and auctioning off customized laptops and other tech to help them build a self-sufficient social enterprise. They are working to raise the next generation of digitally literate young people who know the value of a supportive community.

Project Nandi puts human connection and individual care at the forefront of their mission. Ini Augustine, Minnesota State Coordinator, sums it up best: "Technology is only as important as the people behind it."

This video shows the importance of this work in the community and for digital literacy.

The video begins with a boy carefully lifting his new computer from its box.

"Whoa," he says softly, "what is it?"

"Open it," his mother tells him.

He giggles, a smile breaking out across his face, and he quickly opens the plastic wrap to see the laptop, the protective cover patterned like Van Gough's Starry Night. His family stands around him, and there is a collective intake of breath as they see the laptop.

"Whoa!" he murmurs.

"It's Van Gough," explains Project Nandi founder, Ini Augustine.

The boy's face lights up into an even wider smile, "I know!" he exclaims, and now the smile seems etched into his face, light radiating from his eyes.

"Oh my goodness," his mother whispers, watching as her son opens his new laptop for the first time.

"Who paid for this?" the boy asks

"The community," says Augustine, pride and love evident in her voice.

"Whoa, mom--the community likes me!" the boy exclaims. There is humor in his tone, but also surprise and joy.

Scenes like this are why Project Nandi, is working to close the digital divide. After schools went online for the pandemic, Augustine began the work after hearing that one third of students (mostly children of color) didn't have the computers they needed to access online classes. Project Nandi has an ongoing GoFundMe campaign to raise $300,000 to provide 400 students with computers, broadband, and study spaces to access online classes. The organization also provides wrap-around support to families, including food and housing resources and parent support groups. Project Nandi helps to decrease the pressures that parents face, relieving some of the financial burden on parents and thereby giving them the time and space to focus on more than just the immediate future. Augustine has learned that just as children cannot learn when they're going hungry, parents cannot focus on economic advancement when they're worried about how to get them access to online school during a pandemic.

The week-long virtual programming for GEW Minnesota include a health insurance seminar for people who are self-employed, an e-commerce for small business training session, and more.
If you're not able to tune in, you can still support Project Nandi on our GoFundMe page. Also, be sure to stay up to date with GEW Minnesota events