Sturgeon Bay, Wis. (February 2, 2023) – Quantum Technologies, owned and operated by Nathan Drager and Erin Helgeson, is making it their mission to bridge the “Digital Divide” in Door County.
For several years, Quantum Technologies has been partnering with local organizations, and has been involved in a number of countywide Digital Equity and Inclusion initiatives, to address the peninsula’s Digital Divide.
Most recently, Quantum has been involved in the early stages of building a community task force designed to specifically address all aspects of Door County’s technology gap.
In August of 2022, Door County’s Broadband Coordinator Jessica Hatch began reaching out to local organizations to create a community task force that could address the county’s Digital Divide.
“In my role as Broadband Coordinator,” Hatch says, “one part of my job is to ensure there is someone with broadband expertise that can work hand-in-hand with all of the peninsula’s different communities and municipalities. The other part is to address Digital Equity and Inclusion, which was an issue I knew we needed to tackle sooner rather than later.”
Hatch reached out to Drager almost immediately.
“Nathan was the first person I contacted,” she remarks, “because I know him and I know Quantum Technologies—they are the county’s premiere technology company and they are also very community minded in their approach to what they are trying to achieve. And,” she adds, “they are also already doing some of the work—teaching Learning In Retirement (LIR) classes and refurbishing old technology.”
Next, she reached out to Amy Kohnle, Executive Director of The United Way of Door County. “Our work is focused on the areas of healthy lifestyles, education and financial stability, and our mission is to help people to live to their fullest potential within those areas,” Kohnle says, adding, “Anything people might be struggling with where barriers need to be removed—transportation or mental health, for example—we work to remove those barriers.”
A large part of Hatch and Kohnle’s role in working to increase access to broadband internet is finding the funding to install a fiber optic network throughout Door County. “In Door County, our focus is on fiber to the premise,” Hatch explains. “Other technologies, like wireless, work in places where the topography is flat,” she continues, “but, wireless needs to be updated every 6-8 years. With fiber, the baseline is 20 years, but there are case studies where it continues to work after 30–40 years. It’s a future-proof technology, and that’s what federal funding is tied to—future-proof, terrestrial, wireline service.”
While Hatch and Kohnle have been working on the funding end of the high-speed internet issue, Quantum Technologies, alongside a number of other organizations, has already begun installing a fiber optic network in portions of Door County. “As a fiber optic contractor, our role has been in construction, splicing, installation, testing, and maintaining the fiber networks,” says Drager. “We have been working with Jessica Hatch and the county, and partnering with multiple ISPs, operators, municipalities, and other fiber contractors that are advancing fiber in Door County.”
In particular, Quantum has been involved with, and integral to, the ongoing installation of a fiber optic network on Washington Island, is working with Nsight/Cellcom on the Liberty Grove and Baileys Harbor Pilot Projects, and is already connecting residents in Gills Rock.
Additionally, Hatch, Kohnle and Quantum Technologies are putting together a program that provides residents with refurbished computers. The program aims to set up collection sites across the county, collect the used computers, and refurbish them.
“Nathan, and his team, have been really excited to partner with us on this program,” Kohnle adds. Indeed, Quantum has already been refurbishing the community’s used desktop and laptop computers, smartphones, and tablets. “We are always refurbishing devices,” Drager points out. “We have a pretty consistent stream of hardware,” he says, “and are often able to provide a credit to our clients after hardware refreshes by refurbishing and selling their old devices.”
“Recently, when the YMCA bought new computers, Quantum refurbished the old hardware,” Drager adds. “They made those refurbished computers available for their employees to purchase, and so the computers went back into service instead of the landfill.” In 2021, Quantum Technologies was able to raise $12,000 for St. John Bosco school following the refurbishment of over 150 donated devices.
For computers to qualify for refurbishment, they need to meet a few criteria—donated computers need to:
- Be no older than 6 years old
- Be fully operational
- Have a minimum 4GB of RAM
- Come with the power cord
If you are interested in donating unused computers, tablets or smartphones for refurbishment, call Quantum Technologies at (920) 256-1214 or bring your unused tech directly into the Quantum Technologies store, located at 619 N. 8th Ave in Sturgeon Bay.
Finally, Quantum Technologies has already been involved in Door County digital literacy initiatives. “Over the last 5 years,” Drager remarks, “we have provided at least 100 digital literacy classes to the community.”
“We currently have a curriculum of around 30 classes,” says Drager, “that cover basic topics—cell phone basics, email basics, Microsoft Office basics, using the internet safely, how to clean your computer, how Wi-Fi works, cloud storage 101, daily computer functions—those kinds of skills.”
Classes are currently taught at the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) Learning In Retirement (LIR) program and NWTC Learning and Innovation Center, as well as at the YMCA, Kress Pavilion (specifically the Repair Cafe), and the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC). Digital Equity and Inclusion courses have been taught at the ADRC and will likely continue to be taught at that location.
All of Quantum Technologies’ available digital literacy classes are free and open to the public. Classes are currently advertised through Quantum’s Facebook page, or interested parties can sign up for Quantum’s E-Newsletter mailing list, which will also include information about classes, at /quantumpc.com/training/.
About the Digital Divide and Digital Equity and Inclusion
Addressing Digital Equity and Inclusion, and bridging the Digital Divide, is as important an issue for Door County as it is for all municipalities across the United States. Digital Equity and Inclusion benefits not only those who are receiving direct assistance, but lifts the quality of life for every person in their respective communities.
The “Digital Divide” refers to the gap that exists between digital haves and have-nots. Access to “tangible things,” like computers, tablets, smartphones and a high-speed internet connection, as well as access to “non-tangibles things,” like the skill sets required to access the internet and use technology, defines the Digital Divide. As the ability to access the online world has increasingly become a requirement of everyday life, the inability to access that world becomes a large barrier to financial stability and success.
Digital Equity and Inclusion is the key to combat the Digital Divide. In order to better define “Digital Equity and Inclusion,” it helps to separate an explanation of the subject into its two constituent parts.
- Digital Equity: Having the skill sets, technology and infrastructure to access educational, employer, commercial, government and medical websites to name a few. In order for every American to be fully engaged in both civic and cultural life, maintain employment and have access to essential services, Digital Equity is a requirement and a necessity.
- Digital Inclusion: Digital Inclusion means increasing access to digital technologies on a number of fronts, including access to: Affordable and reliable broadband internet service, user-friendly, internet-enabled devices and digital literacy training. These strategies might include legislative action, financial investment, and grassroots/community organization.
In Door County, there are three main barriers to achieving Digital Inclusion: High-speed internet access, access to digital technology and digital literacy.