Digital Inclusion Community Needs Assessment
As part of a grant from IMLS, the partnership of WebJunction, ICMA (International City/County Management Association), and TechSoup Global conducted a nationwide community needs assessment in February 2012 to understand more about the level of awareness of digital inclusion issues, to identify priorities for getting started or continuing existing efforts, and to learn about current projects and the attendant challenges and successes.
The Community Needs Assessment questions: The project team solicited input from a variety of perspectives, including state libraries, public libraries, city/county/town managers, and community-based organizations.
Summary of the Community Needs Assessment: summary of the findings, with data tables and quotations from respondents
Current Digital Inclusion Projects: When respondents were asked what projects they are currently engaged in, they delivered 492 responses.
The assessment, which garnered 670 responses from state and public library directors, city managers, and community-based organizations from 50 U.S. states, provided insights into the ways in which organizations are prioritizing and addressing digital inclusion. Overall, the findings indicate a high level of awareness of digital inclusion issues across organization types, both in prioritizing specific objectives and in recognizing key challenges. The 492 responses to the question about current projects indicate that there is a lot of forward motion on digital inclusion across the country, and quite a bit of pride in the achievements.
Although public library responses greatly outnumber responses from other sectors, there are interesting comparisons to be made when sorted by organization type.
- The top priorities correspond rather predictably, with libraries focused on providing free public access, city/county managers looking to digital technologies to enhance emergency preparedness and civic engagement, and non-profits most concerned about educational opportunities and career preparation for all ages.
- There is more convergence between organization types in the identification of top challenges and most useful resources. The need for ongoing IT support ranks in the top two challenges for all sectors; CBOs and libraries (public and state) share the need for training for staff and community members. The city/county sector and state libraries share availability of high-speed networks as their number one challenge.
- When asked about the most useful tools and resources to achieve digital inclusion, all sectors except city/county managers ranked operational funding as the most needed resource; for the city administrators, it ranked second to the need for capital funding. Training for staff and volunteers showed up in the top three needed resources for all except the CBOs.
- Current projects of the library field are heavily concentrated on providing free public broadband access to the Internet, including computer stations and training. The current projects described by city/county and non-profit respondents, although fewer in number, address a broader spectrum of digital inclusion areas, such as emergency services and medical facilities.
- All sectors seem to be relying on funding from a wide variety of sources. The sources most frequently cited are BTOP, LSTA and E-rate funding, local dollars and Foundation funding.
- Partnerships abound across all sectors, with the public library as the most frequently cited partner for most; the sole exception is the non-profit sector, which partners somewhat more frequently with schools than with public libraries.
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