Closing the Digital Divide for Refugees

Vikram Ravi at BYU Marriott School

For Vikram Ravi, making a difference isn’t a far-off dream—it’s his reality.

A strategy senior from Alamo, California, Ravi was recently offered a post-graduation position as a digital literacy and access VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) for the AmeriCorps program through the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

As a VISTA, Ravi will develop community partnerships and sponsorships to increase refugees’ access to low-cost or free hardware, software, internet, and education in Utah. He will also help with a technology mentor volunteer program and with integrating technology services into various areas of the IRC.

Ravi’s experiences interning and working for the Ballard Center helped him to network and gain other experience working with the state of Utah, which then led to the job offer from the IRC.

From August 2015 to April 2016, Ravi interned for the Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance’s social innovation project, the Google Community Leaders program, which focuses on finding innovative solutions to bridge the digital divide, or the gap between demographics and regions that have access to and knowledge of technology and the internet and those that don’t.

“Many of us know when to click on something once or double-click it, and how to search YouTube for answers to our questions,” Ravi says. “These skills are so basic, but we don’t realize that individuals in certain populations, such as refugees, sometimes don’t know how to do these things.”

In April 2016, after completing the Google Community Leaders internship program, Ravi was hired into his current position as the director for the program. He says his experiences at the Ballard Center helped prepare him for his new job at the IRC. Specifically, Ravi says, the internship helped him to see how the digital divide is connected to current social issues.

Ravi’s networking through the Ballard Center led to his employment as a community engagement intern for the state of Utah from June to September 2016, during which time he provided training and assistance in volunteer management. That internship led to his appointment to serve on the Utah lieutenant governor’s Commission for Service and Volunteerism beginning in January 2017.

All of these experiences piqued Ravi’s interest in a career in service rather than in management consulting, and through additional networking he was able to find his job at the IRC.

Ravi is motivated by his belief that a career should be about loving others and working to help them.

“People often talk about following your dreams, yet I still see people setting aside their charitable dreams for financial security earlier on in life,” Ravi says. “But what I’ve learned is that by working hard, finding meaningful internships, and developing genuine relationships, I can make a living for myself and future family and do what I love.”