Tech Bloc succeeded in raising more than $40,000 to help 150 San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) families gain free internet access for distance learning.

Our digital campfire meetup April 21st featured community stakeholders such as Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Jag Bath, CEO of HEB’s delivery service Favor, San Antonio Economic Development Foundation (SAEDF) CEO Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, Amanda Keammerer, director of CyberSecurity San Antonio and Texas BioMed CEO Dr. Larry Schlesinger.

The Lew Moorman family agreed to match donations up to $12,5000 while Dirk Elmendorf announced an additional $6,000 matching donation.

"Our entrepreneurial community in our tech community understands it's in those periods of stress and change that we see some of the most innovative and important inflections within industry that we've ever seen before," Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.

Nirenberg agreed to donate $2,500 to the SAISD Foundation while Lorenzo Gomez announced he’d dedicate proceeds from the next two months of sales of his latest book, "Tafolla Toro: Three Years of Fear."

The need for the tech community to rally over closing the digital divide is what's driving Elmendorf and others to find ways to help people in your community. With such a gap in access to the internet, many students are unable to connect to teachers since the Stay at Home restrictions went into effect March 16.

"Over 70% of our students don't have a cell or data plan," said SAISD Superintendent Martinez. 

San Antonio responds to Coronavirus

The digital campfire featured San Antonio's stakeholders discussing responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Favor CEO Jag Bath heads HEB's grocery delivery service. He shared with Tech Bloc viewers how HEB began preparing for the pandemic in January. By mid-March HEB had rolled out Favor delivery services for seniors because "We believe this to be the safest option for seniors, it showcases the role tech plays in a crisis," Bath said.

The investments HEB has made in its tech infrastructure in recent years helped the retail company prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic. No matter what the next shifts in demand may be, "we remain focused on being customer-centric," Bath said.

UTSA Small Business Development Center advisor Crystal Darby advised entrepreneurs to "focus on how you're going to come back after this is over. Figure out what to do long term, because recovery is going to take a while."

CANopener Labs co-founder Dale Bracey talked about the prototyping startup's work developing a ventilator prototype that could be used in the event of widespread shortages and its 3-D printing of face shields for healthcare providers. 

Keammerer described how San Antonio is the second-largest cyber hub in the U.S. and the vital role our city's cyber experts play in digital preparedness. She also warned us to remain vigilant for pandemic scams.

EyesTexas BioMed CEO Dr. Larry Schlesinger discussed the unique capabilities the research institute has, including the nation's only privately owned biocontainment laboratory for testing dangerous infectious agents. Researchers are working on many projects related to the Coronavirus response, from promising treatments to potential vaccines. 

"We're optimistic we'll soon establish an animal model for the virus," Schlesinger said. This is needed to help test new COVID-19 vaccines." 

You can still help SAISD families

Judy Geelhoed, executive director of the SAISD Foundation, said donations are still being accepted. Please consider giving what you can at their website and help us eliminate the digital divide in San Antonio.