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Big Island Initiative Seeks To Bridge Student Digital Divide

Ilihia Gionson
Hiehie Communications
Families in the remote and rural fishing village of Miloli'i prepare to receive refurbished computers to help them complete online learning assignments, which have become standard during the coronavirus pandemic.

As Hawai?i?s schools gear up for reopening next month, some students in the island?s more remote and rural communities will be doing so without adequate equipment for online learning. But efforts are underway on the Big Island to get as many computers as possible to students in need before the end of summer. 

Long-time Big Island educator Mahina Paishon-Duarte says she knew many Hawai?i Island students would be on the wrong side of the digital divide as schools began to implement online learning because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Many of our students lack access to a digital device or for households that have several children in their home, they only have one device to share amongst all of them,” says Paishon-Duarte. “On top of that, many of the families, especially on Hawai?i Island, there are so many remote locales in which Wi-Fi connectivity is a problem.”

To help bridge that digital divide, Paishon-Duarte and representatives from nine other organizations on the Big Island formed a coalition called the Kuauli Digital Opportunities Initiative. The group teamed up with Hawaiian Hope, an organization specializing in refurbished computers, to provide Hawai?i Island households with digital devices for the upcoming school year.

“We?ve been able to furnish 100 refurbished desktops to families in Kohala, Waimea, Kona, Hilo,” says Paishon-Duarte, “And we?re looking to double that number before the end of summer.”

Paishon-Duarte says the group's short-term focus is on distributing digital devices. But the long-term aim is to ensure Hawai?i ?ohana can take full advantage of the opportunities provided by digital technology. 

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at
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