Communities Working Together to Advance Digital Equity
Our Digital Inclusion Week series kicks off with Shauna Edson of the Salt Lake City Public Library. Shauna is a former Google Fiber-sponsored NTEN Digital Inclusion Fellow. She now serves as the Library’s Digital Inclusion Coordinator and is a Fellow with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA).
I first became aware of digital inclusion work when I was working on my undergraduate classes at the University of Utah. I didn’t have an internet connection in my apartment or a smartphone, and I quickly learned how much that complicated my education. To turn in assignments, access readings, and do everything else students need to do online I had to go to a public computer lab. I was also a single parent at the time, and that meant I either had to pay for childcare or bring my tweens with me to the computer lab, pay for parking, and try to fit going to the lab in between my classes and the three part-time jobs I was juggling. I don’t know if you have any experience studying while trying to keep your kids entertained in a public space, but it didn’t work out well for me.
Once I became aware of how digital inequities were impacting my own life, I began to notice the effect it had on others as well. Everyday tasks are moving to digital spaces, and having access to broadband, innovative technologies, and the knowledge to know how to use it in a meaningful way is essential to fully participating in society. Today, the Internet is used for so much of our daily lives: online banking and managing finances; accessing health records and remote doctor visits; gaining employment, workforce development, and economic growth; education; entertainment; socializing with family and friends; and more.
Digital equity is when everyone can easily access and use technologies to communicate, learn, work, and play. All individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, civic engagement, economy, and access to essential services. Digital inclusion is the work we need to do to achieve digital equity, and it must evolve as technology advances. Digital equity impacts all of those in communities, and it takes a whole community working together to address digital divides. Google Fiber is an active partner in this work in Utah.
In January of 2018, Utah Communities Connect: Utah’s Digital Alliance held their first meeting. It started when Salt Lake City was selected as a ConnectHomeUSA community in 2017, and several organizations worked together on a kick-off event. The event garnered interest in digital inclusion in Utah and local governments, libraries, housing authorities, academics, nonprofit organizations, and private industry stakeholders, including Google Fiber, formed the alliance.
Almost two years later, we are happy to host the inaugural Utah Digital Summit as part of NDIA’s Digital Inclusion Week and with Google Fiber as a supporter. Utah Digital Summit is a collaboration between Utah Communities Connect and the Utah Broadband Association as part of the ongoing effort to bring community partners together to raise awareness and build the "digital equity movement" in Utah. Digital equity is a long term effort that will take continued collaboration by a broad cross-section of stakeholders. This week's summit is a great step forward on that journey.
Posted by Shauna Edson, Digital Inclusion Coordinator, Salt Lake City Public Library.