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Team E2D — Eliminate the Digital Divide

Monica Galloway

Franny Millen, Co-Founder
Pat Millen, Co-Founder and President

It’s probably safe to say that most middle-schoolers aren’t as tuned into the technical plight of others as Franny Millen.

But then again, Millen has never been your average teenager. It was in the fall of her seventh-grade year in 2012 that this curious young woman — who lives in Davidson, N.C. (a suburb of Charlotte), with her parents and two brothers — began to notice that nearly every assignment her class received required a computer to complete it. 

“Whether it was online research, taking online quizzes, studying online notes shared by the class or just typing up notes or papers — everything presumed that one had a computer available to them outside of school,” recalled Millen, who is now an 11th-grader. “Looking around our school, it seemed there were a ton of kids that couldn’t afford to own their own computers, and that seemed really unfair to me.”

Millen and her family decided to do something about it, because, as she aptly said, “all kids need to be able to do their schoolwork and, secondly, because we knew that the Charlotte community had plenty of resources available to help fix this issue — money, laptops, volunteers, etc.”

What started as a family project of finding laptops, refurbishing them and getting them to students has morphed into a much greater effort called E2D (for Eliminate the Digital Divide) that is successfully helping to resolve the digital divide for school kids.

“We work with our partners at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system to find families that live at or below the poverty line that don’t have access to home-based technology,” Millen said.

Essentially, there are three primary parts to E2D that include:

  • Laptop computers: E2D asks companies that are retiring their laptop inventory to donate them. The laptops are cleaned and refurbished and a new operating software and Microsoft Office is installed.
  • Digital Connectivity: E2D works with families to help them find the most cost-effective ways to establish connections at their homes. 
  • Digital Literacy Training: Just having a computer doesn’t fix all problems, which is why E2D works with hundreds of volunteers to provide digital literacy training.

Three years ago, E2D distributed its first 54 laptops to kids at one elementary school. “Since that day, we have practically doubled our numbers each year,” said Millen. “We are currently on pace to deliver 1,200 laptops this year — which would bring us to about 2,200 over the course of three-and-a-half years.”

When asked what the next few years hold for her, Millen doesn’t miss a beat. “I want to end the digital divide for 100 percent of Charlotte’s school-aged children,” she said. “This is possible and will happen because Charlotte is a city that believes all of its citizens deserve a fair chance to become successful.”

And E2D’s efforts won’t let up anytime soon. Pat Millen, Franny’s dad (pictured with her), is a co-founder of the organization and left his career to focus on building out E2D full time. —Lisa Kopochinski