RURAL AMERICA: A Treasure of ASSETS
November 30, 2023
COMMUNITY INPUT DRIVES THE DIGITAL LITERACY AND INTERNET ACCESS EFFORTS OF MAMACÍTAS CIBERNÉTICAS
By Jennie Blizzard, Fed Communities
Mamacítas Cibernéticas (Cybernetic Mamas) wants to make sure the community has a say when it comes to digital inclusion in Doña Ana County, New Mexico. “Any services to the public must include the community because they live and experience the good, the bad, and the ugly of service delivery,” says Maria Chaparro, the group’s founder. “Communities can tell you their true needs and suggest solutions.”
As founder of Mamacitas Ciberneticas, Maria Chaparro (pictured above) and her organization work with the community partners and various organization to increase access to affordable, efficient broadband in underserved communities in Dona Ana, New Mexico.
‘Mamacitas Cibernéticas: Addressing the digital divide in Southern Doña Ana County, NM (video, 9:19)
When kids needed to switch to remote learning during the pandemic, Maria considered her family fortunate. They had reliable internet and experience with using the internet and devices. But she soon recognized that many parents were in a different situation. She also realized that there were similar challenges with other residents in the community.
This realization led to a partnership with Borderplex Connect. The regional group of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors promote digital inclusion in the counties of El Paso and Doña Ana. Mamacítas Cibernéticas led and guided the process for a Comprehensive Needs Assessment (CNA) that included stakeholders from the City of Sunland Park and educational institutions. The report reflects the major challenges the community faces and practical solutions to overcome digital literacy issues. Mamacítas Cibernéticas hopes New Mexico will use the findings and recommendations in its broadband action plan for the state. “With this report, stakeholders can be poised to respond to the RFA/RFP the New Mexico Office of Broadband Access and Expansion will roll out,” Maria said. “We’re confident that our efforts will resonate with other communities. We also hope it will be included in that statewide plan.”
So, what’s next for Mamacítas Cibernéticas? They plan to use the CNA to form a community coalition of local stakeholders who implement digital literacy services to residents in southern Doña Ana. “You can’t engage the community through a smartphone or from one’s office,” Maria says. You can’t just send an email or text and expect the community to eagerly respond. You have to approach and engage communities with respect.”
‘Closing the digital divide in border communities. Policy Dialogues January 13, 2022 (video, 3:50)