Jahnavi Bonagiri: Bridging the Digital Divide

Computer Science student Jahnavi Bonagiri interning with the United Way

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 15, 2021) – Among the numerous issues that came to light at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the phrase “digital divide” became one that many parents, teachers and students became quite familiar. As many students struggled with adjusting to remote learning, some families were left grappling with simply finding the resources to ensure their children were able to learn – whether due to lack of WiFi access or a reliable computer.

Computer Science major Jahnavi Bonagiri has spent the summer working with the United Way to try to come up with strategies to bridge the digital divide in the Capital Region.

“I interned with the Community Impact Team at United Way, where some of my duties include researching ways to combat the digital divide gap in my Capital Region and collaborating with other local non-profits in coming up with strategies,” said Bonagiri, a sophomore at UAlbany. “I have learned a lot about the root problem that exists in the digital divide and how many families are still struggling to access proper WiFi, devices, and broadband connection.”

Bonagiri was selected for the United Way internship through the Massry Community Service Fellows Program.

“Through the support of the Massry family, I could choose to intern at any nonprofit organization situated in the Capital Region of my choice for 400 hours,” said Bonagiri. “Through this program, I was able to make a real difference in my local community.”

As part of a family of immigrants, Bonagiri was able to empathize with the Capital Region families that faced challenges during the pandemic.

“Growing up with a family of immigrants was a very different experience for me. My family moved to the United States in 2005 from India for better economic opportunities,” said Bonagiri “My parents were always supportive of my dreams and aspirations, however, I had to move to a lot of different schools and had to adjust to different environments due to my dad's job. It was difficult to leave behind friends and schools I had grown attached to.”

That all changed with her family moved to the Capital Region.

“Since we moved to Albany, I feel like I finally found a place I fit in, and it has become a home,” she said.

Enrolling at UAlbany has only furthered this feeling.

“UAlbany is a diverse and inclusive environment. I love the community, the student ratio, and the location the college is situated in,” said Bonagiri. “UAlbany also has a wide variety of majors and extracurriculars that can allow me to explore different career options.”

For Bonagiri, this has meant studying computer science at the University’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Through her introduction to computer science course, she learned about the intersection of technology across all different fields and how technology could be used as an agent of change.

She is also appreciative of the encouragement she has received as an Honors College student.

“Dr. Kathryn Fore, my honors college advisor has been of tremendous support and helped guide me a lot during my struggles of picking a major and during the time where I didn't know what I was passionate about,” said Bonagiri “Moreover, Dr. Martha Asselin, who is the director of the Massry Community Service Fellows Program gave me incredible support with finding my internship and supported my future goals and aspirations.”

For Bonagiri, those career goals center around understanding the impact of technology as a beneficial tool, as well as preventing the digital gaps that became all too prevalent for many disadvantaged families and students during the past year.