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digital divide

Hacking Louisville’s Digital Divide

Rubel School

A new social innovation conference is bringing together Bellarmine students and experts across fields from tech to education to hack into Louisville’s digital divide.  

The hackathon will be a free two-day event on March 20-21 over Zoom. It aims to educate the community about the lack of digital access in Louisville and the current measures being taken to overcome it. 

Dr. Natasha Munshi, Dean of the W. Fielding Rubel School of Business, is the creator behind the project. Munshi wanted to bring awareness to a problem she began to see in Louisville, and she wanted to bring BU students in to devise solutions. 

“My niece was the one who brought to my attention that this is a real issue,” Munshi said. “The pandemic was bringing to light something that already existed but was made much tougher by the fact everybody had to go online. That's why the online access to education became our goal for the hackathon.” 

Dr. Jonathan Blandford, director of Bellarmine's Honors Program, said he and Munshi wanted to bring together students of different disciplines to brainstorm solutions to real world problems. He believes students offer a valuable outside perspective on this issue, and that a hackathon will provide a high-impact experience for students. 

“We are doing something that is mutually beneficial for the community and the students. We are providing possible solutions to one and providing a hands-on experience to the other,” Blandford said.  

Munshi said there’s an emphasis on cutting through the “red tape” preventing households from accessing the internet. Social innovation is the end goal of the hackathon. Crowdsourcing and asking students for their ideas is a way to build solutions.  

“The students may come up with some cool ideas experts might not. The experts on these issues can be so narrowly focused,” Munshi said. “We’re hoping that they could then take the ideas generated by our students and run with them to take concrete action.” 

Blandford said bringing the community together to work on this issue in a two-day window instills a sense of urgency to solve the problem. He said this small window of time allows the problem to be addressed much more quickly than usual. 

“It's not just an intellectual or theoretical exercise,” Blandford said. “It really is an attempt to intervene in a way that will be helpful for the community.” 

Junior Kristina Lynch is attending the hackathon. She said was drawn to take part because she knows the digital divide has become an issue that is affecting everyone. 

“When we talk about online learning, a lot of people don't really talk about those who don't have access to Internet or suitable technology at home. They are put at a significantly greater disadvantage,” Lynch said. “I’m excited to see what we can do to help fix this larger community problem as students.” 

The hackathon will take place on March 20 from 1 to 5 p.m. and March 21 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The event is open to community members and BU students. Capacity is limited to 100 participants.

Click here to sign up or learn more.



Registration-ready-authorI’m Katelyn Norris. I am a senior Communication major with a Writing minor. I serve as VP of Public Relations on Student Government Association and on Leadership Team for Pioneers Scholars. I am currently a staff member in the Student Success Center as an Academic Peer Coach and Student Success Assistant. As a student journalist for the Knights Media Network I cover feature and news stories from all across campus! I plan to graduate in May 2021 and venture out into the career field.


Tags: digital divide , hackathon , Louisville , MBA , social justice

About Bellarmine University

Bellarmine University is a vibrant community of educational excellence and ethical awareness that consistently ranks among the nation’s best colleges and universities. Our students pursue an education based in the liberal arts – and in the distinguished, inclusive Catholic tradition of educational excellence, the oldest and most rewarding in the western world. It is a lifelong education, worthy of the university’s namesake, Saint Robert Bellarmine, and of his invitation to each of us to learn and live In Veritatis Amore – in the love of all that is beautiful, true and good in life.