Digital Inclusion: It Takes a Community
The challenge to increase broadband connections and adoption is an action call to the entire nation. It has been likened to other large scale projects—the electrification project of the 1920s or President Kennedy’s quest to send a man to the moon in the 1960s. In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama urged the country to embark on “connecting every part of America to the digital age.” Later in the year, FCC Chairman Genachowski announced the sweeping Connect2Compete initiative to increase broadband connectivity and Internet access across the nation. The data show that nearly one-third of US households lack broadband access. The whole community of the United States needs to own the challenge and understand that the nation is stronger when every citizen is digitally empowered. In Tuesday’s webinar, It Takes a Community to Bridge the Digital Divide, we heard the perspectives of three key “communities”—libraries, public administrators, and community non-profits. They each have a role to play in the implementation of the digital inclusion vision. Mary Chute, deputy director for libraries at the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), identified digital inclusion as a major policy area in the same way that transportation and highways are. IMLS is in the process of defining a Framework for Building Digital Communities, which defines the vision, the principles, goals and strategies that will help community leaders take action to foster digital inclusion. Ron Carlee, chief operating officer, International City/County Management Association (ICMA), has been deeply involved in the development of the Framework guidelines, bringing the public administration perspective to the planning table. Ron acknowledged that digital inclusion is a large and complex challenge, that “no entity can do this alone, but any entity can be the catalyst.” He described the development process as a road map and a product of the best thinking by people from all over the country and from many different sectors. David Keyes, community technology program manager, City of Seattle, added a more detailed layer from the perspective of a large city and a statewide community technology non-profit organization. At the ground level of implementation, David said that people get the concept but don’t necessarily know what steps to take to get there. Fostering collaboration and partnerships is one important strategy for building capacity and focusing the energy of the numerous organizations already in existence to help the disadvantaged. An hour is so often too short. Although some participant questions were answered related to funding and the unique needs of rural communities, we ran out of time. If you have any responses to the following questions, please add your comments to this post.
- What specific examples or case studies can you provide about digital inclusion projects, including what has not worked? [The WebJunction/ICMA/TechSoup project will be creating a repository of digital inclusion resources and case studies. Watch for an announcement in the next month or so.]
- Is anyone tracking or mapping digital literacy programs systematically throughout the US?
Visit the archive page to:
- Listen to the 1-hour presentation.
- View the slides, closed caption transcript, and chat log.
- Get links to data sources, funding resources, community tools and more information shared by presenters and participants (an engaged community in action!).