National Digital Inclusion Week Helps Build Nationwide Momentum for Digital Equity

Austin city officials and community leaders have long sought to stem the growth of economic disparity by providing equal access to technology. For many years, such efforts have been known nationwide as bridging the digital divide, and they’ve largely sought to ensure all citizens have access to computers and the Internet. Recently, however, the issue has grown more nuanced and complex. Access to high-speed Internet is no longer the sole measure of whether citizenry has equal digital opportunity, as such access is now readily available via smartphones and other devices. As a result, the issue now seeks to address whether all populations have equitable access to things like tech training, high-speed Internet at home, and education that emphasizes the importance of going online to apply for jobs, finish homework, access better and more efficient medical care, and do the millions of other things enabled by the Web.

As such, the phrases "digital equity" and "digital inclusion" are now being used to frame the discussion. Digital equity is what cities want; digital inclusion is how they obtain it. Initiatives that fall under this umbrella still include old digital divide stuff like getting computers into low-income neighborhoods, but they also increasingly entail skills training, support programs and guarantees of meaningful Internet access. This semantic shift is making it easier for nonprofits and city programs to proliferate around the cause, said Angela Siefer, director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, the leading group in the matter. “The reason is because there are so many digital divides,” Siefer said. “You might close one divide, but there’s another that pops up tomorrow.”


National Digital Inclusion Week Helps Build Nationwide Momentum for Digital Equity