1. What are you doing towards Digital Inclusion in Charlotte?
My main responsibility is leading the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Digital Inclusion Steering Team in producing and implementing a strategic plan or a playbook as we are calling it, that shares practical strategies for building a connected city and in moving toward universal Broadband access in Charlotte. Our goal is to reduce the digital divide from 19% to 9% by 2027. The playbook will help organize county-wide efforts and provide a pathway for other organizations and individuals interested in doing this work to get engaged.
Additionally, I lead Queens Knight School’s Digital Charlotte project. Digital Charlotte is a hub for digital inclusion advocacy, which includes internet access, devices, and education. Through our digital networks and community partnerships, we provide news and resources for teachers, librarians, neighborhood leaders, technology mentors, and other practitioners.
2. Why are you working towards Digital Inclusion in Charlotte?
Queens Knight School of Communication has been engaged in the work of digital inclusion and digital and media literacy for over 5 years now. Our approach is three-fold; to engage students, to engage with the Charlotte community, and to engage with the leading minds in this field from around the world.
Google Fiber’s expansion into Charlotte provides an opportunity to focus the community on broadband Internet access and its importance to attracting talent and expanding opportunity for all. People with financial resources can tap into this high-speed Internet access easily. However, opportunity gaps could increase for lower-income and other vulnerable populations without intentional outreach.
This work is critical to creating an equitable, vibrant, healthy, connected community.
3. What does a digitally connected community look like to you?
It looks like a layer cake to me. There are so many levels of digital penetration happening at a rate of change not even the brightest minds in Silicon Valley can comprehend. However, those advancements are not provided equitably. The continuing widening of the digital divide should be considered a crisis for any community. We live in a connected world, where lack of internet access = lack of opportunity. It’s akin to not having water or electricity.
So for any community to become digitally connected the first and most important step is digital inclusion. Access, technology, and digital literacy are foundational elements of a digitally connected community. Lack of these things will prevent a community from thriving in the world we are creating.
Simply put, a digitally connected community is one that strives to ensure that all of its residents, no matter their zip code, have affordable broadband access in the home, the technology to connect to the internet, and the skills to take advantage of the opportunity the first two create.