COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Governor Henry McMaster has announced $6 million will be going towards creating community computer labs across the state.
The money comes from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Funds, also known as GEER Funds.
The computer labs will come from a partnership between the University of South Carolina and Benedict College, in which 8 apple labs will be opened for anyone in the community to take advantage of.
Governor McMaster said the goal is to provide internet access to communities in broadband deserts, stressing this access is critical for continued learning, health, and welfare.
“What this will do is allow for computer lab access to anyone who wants to come; whether its students, professors, to people in the communities, to anyone in between,” Governor McMaster said.
It’s something Benedict College President Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis stressed is critically important to reaching those who have been historically underserved.
“Nevermore has it been clear, then during this pandemic that digital equity is a critical precursor to the state’s progress,” Artis said. “We stand ready to deliver.”
There will be hubs at Benedict College and Columbia’s Bull Street District as well as satellite labs at six of the University of South Carolina’s regional campuses.
Officials said the labs have been strategically placed for local school districts, HBCUs, and the broader community to be able to use the resources at no cost.
“Benedict College, the University of South Carolina, and the entire state of South Carolina will be beneficiaries of the progressive, forward-thinking initiative on the part of our Governor, to make technology accessible to all,” Artis said.
The apple labs will provide internet access, as well as, workforce training initiatives and educational programs.
“South Carolinians will gain the skills and the opportunities that are necessary to improve their economic outcomes and to participate in a modern economy, regardless of their academic background, and by offering these trainings at no charge will continue to bridge the digital gap and improve outcomes for all South Carolinians,” UofSC President Bob Caslen said.
UofSC officials said they hope to have the Bull street lab up and running in the next 90 days, and then they will expand from there.
Governor McMaster received $48 million in GEER funds through the CARES Act. He said they are still in the process of determining how the remainder of the funds will be used.