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How Tech Exchange lifts up thousands of Oakland students

Check-in at event

Closing the digital divide: How Tech Exchange lifts up thousands of Oakland Students

The sudden closure of schools at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic created a major challenge for the Oakland Unified School District. How could they provide support to the thousands of students lacking the necessary technology to study from home?

We knew that as soon as shelter-in-place hit, this was a huge community issue… approximately 50% of families didn’t have the home technology access they needed.Seth Hubbert, Executive Director, Tech Exchange

The logistics of closing the digital divide

A group of partners, which includes the Oakland Unified School District, the City of Oakland, the Oakland Public Education Fund, Oakland Promise and Tech Exchange, launched the #OaklandUndivided initiative to address the technology gaps some students were experiencing.

After a round of fundraising, including a 10 million dollar donation from Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, Tech Exchange was set to distribute hardware to 25,000 students—in theory. In reality, there was much to be done. And fast. With the new school year beginning in mid-August, Tech Exchange had mere months to get a seamless process in place to support thousands of students.

Project duration

Estimated duration of the project

10 weeks

Actual duration of project

3.5 weeks

Tech Exchange engaged Traction on Demand for support in building out a system that would assess student need for computers and internet hotspots, and then manage the distribution and tech support of those devices. This would become the nonprofit’s biggest project to date.

#OaklandUndivided by the numbers:

  • 50,000: student stakeholders
  • 23,000: computers distributed
  • 10,000: hotspots handed out
  • 16,000: square feet of warehouse space
  • 6: languages supported by the tech solution
You can expect to find a lot of stuff in a warehouse of 16,000 square feet!
two men packing up boxes.

#OaklandUndivided Project: Release 1

Tech Check

Screenshot of a web form.

The Traction on Demand solutions team created Tech Check, a survey that decides the eligibility of the households signing up for tech support. It’s a dynamic multi-page survey form in six languages that auto-creates and displays Salesforce records and has the ability to bulk send SMS and email messages in a variety of templates. The families, in turn, would receive follow-up communications via Mogli, a native Salesforce application for WhatsApp and SMS. The Traction on Demand team configured eligibility scoring and prioritization automation requests, which routes requests to priority queues or for review if close to meeting the eligibility criteria.

Number of languages supported by the platform


English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic, Khmer

Salesforce Service Cloud

The Traction on Demand solutions team implemented Service Cloud, which hosts intake application and support request pages. In addition, the Reports and Dashboards provide a snapshot of this project, which has many variables to account for. The fulfillment end-to-end process is powered by Zenkraft, a Salesforce shipping, tracking and returns app.

Technical solutions at a glance:

  • Salesforce Service Cloud: dynamic record creation and update based on survey responses, automated eligibility logic, reports and dashboards
  • Form Assembly: dynamic multi-page survey
  • Mogli: SMS and WhatsApp text messaging
  • Zenkraft: shipment processing, labelling and tracking

The user adoption conundrum

Aside from the logistics of getting this platform up and running, there was the user adoption aspect to consider. The families receiving the support were not necessarily going to be comfortable with tech, so the survey had to be easy to complete and submit. To reduce the possibility of abandoned actions, the Traction on Demand solutions team did away with any need to log in to the platform when guardians or students requested tech support.

Project secret sauce:

Quick, decisive decision-making from the stakeholders involved

The foundational Salesforce data model created by Traction on Demand accounts for scalability and paves the way for future releases, which are currently being worked on.

Thanks to the collaboration between Tech Exchange, its partners and Traction on Demand, 25,000 students who otherwise wouldn’t have had the means to attend class from home were ready to go on the first day of school.

A man and woman working.

#OaklandUndivided isn't just about providing hardware. It's also about providing tech support.

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