Guam's Journey to Digital Inafa'maolek

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Friday, March 22, 2024

Weekly Digest

Guam's Journey to Digital Inafa'maolek

 You’re reading the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society’s Weekly Digest, a recap of the biggest (or most overlooked) broadband stories of the week. The digest is delivered via e-mail each Friday.

Round-Up for the Week of March 18-22, 2024

Grace Tepper

Guam's Office of Infrastructure Policy and Development (OIPD) has released its draft Digital Equity Plan. In the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, the island of Guam, an unincorporated territory of the United States, emerges as a testament to resilience, unity, and evolution. Its history is a rich tapestry of cultures, forged by the perseverance of its indigenous people and the influences of various settlers and conquerors throughout the millennia. The journey of Guam has been one of transformation. The essence of the island remains in the spirit of Inafa’maolek, a concept of the indigenous CHamoru people of restoring harmony and balance, promoting mutual respect and working collaboratively for the common good. In Inafa'maolek lies Guam's vision for digital equity.

Guam's Vision For Digital Equity

In crafting its Vision for Digital Equity, Guam envisions a future where every individual, from each of the covered populations, enjoys equal access to the opportunities and benefits of the digital world. Guam's vision is rooted in inclusion, fairness, and empowerment. It encompasses a commitment to serve individuals living in low-income households, veterans, incarcerated individuals, individuals with a language barrier, aging individuals, individuals who belong to a racial or ethnic minority, individuals with a disability, and individuals living in rural areas. Guam wants to ensure that no one is left behind.

In Guam, every person, irrespective of their background, resources, circumstances, identity, or community, will enjoy equitable access to the digital world. This includes:

  1. access to affordable and reliable internet at home
  2. access to affordable devices that cater to their needs
  3. opportunities for digital literacy and technical support
  4. resources and knowledge to ensure online safety for themselves and their families
  5. online local government resources that are inclusive and accessible to all.

Guaranteeing access empowers the people and communities of Guam to connect both locally and globally. This will open doors to the full spectrum of economic, educational, health, social, civic, and cultural advantages of digital inclusion.

Guam's focus on securing access, affordability, and widespread adoption underscores a fundamental belief: There is room in Guam's economy and community for everyone to succeed.

To achieve these objectives, Guam will adhere to the following principles:

  • Pursue a data-driven, informed and transparent methodology. OIPD will embrace a digital equity perspective in infrastructure projects and other initiatives, prioritizing investments that have the most significant impact. OIPD will also continue to gather and share data with its partners to refine its objectives and strategies.
  • Enhance and bolster the existing support networks within Guam's communities. OIPD will foster partnerships, mutual learning, and collaborative efforts; augment capacity; and supply the necessary tools and frameworks to aid in connecting individuals. OIPD will target efforts towards reaching those who are most in need through a strategy that is both location and community-focused.
  • Capitalize on building relationships for opportunity. OIPD will prioritize digital equity investments and collaborations that build on existing relationships or are spearheaded by individuals and communities facing greater challenges in accessing and adopting digital technologies.

To accomplish these goals, Guam will:

  • Foster innovation. It will encourage and learn from diverse strategies across different areas and communities, acknowledging that the path to digital inclusion varies and that each covered population has unique needs.
  • Amplify its message. It will share a wide array of stories through various mediums to highlight the real effects of the digital divide on individuals and communities, the endeavors towards digital inclusion, and the transformative impact of achieving digital equity via access and adoption.

Covered Populations and Barriers to Digital Equity

As of 2023, approximately 85 percent of the occupied households in Guam have adopted home broadband services. This number compares to the national average of 90.1 percent indicating a gap in home broadband adoption rates.

Guam's draft Digital Equity Plan breaks down its barriers by the different covered populations.

Disabled Individuals

Achieving digital equity for Guam's disabled population means understanding and addressing the specific needs and challenges they face in accessing and benefiting from digital resources. Some of the fundamental needs of Guam's disabled population in the pursuit of digital equity include (but are not limited to):

  • Accessible Internet Infrastructure: Reliable and affordable high-speed internet coverage throughout the island. Some disabled individuals might have limited mobility and the ability to access online services is crucial to their well-being.
  • Affordable Assistive Technologies: Devices like screen readers, speech recognition tools, braille e-readers, and other specialized hardware and software can be expensive. Making these assistive technologies more affordable or available through subsidies is critical.
  • Customized Devices: Making readily available devices that are adapted to specific disabilities, such as computers that can be operated through eye movement, specialized keyboards, or tablets with large icons and text for those with visual impairments.
  • Training and Education: Programs tailored to teach digital literacy skills to the disabled. These programs need to take into account different disabilities and offer personalized training. Educators and trainers equipped with the knowledge and tools to teach digital skills to disabled students.
  • Content Accessibility: Websites, applications, and digital content adhering to accessibility guidelines, ensuring they're navigable by screen readers, have alternative text for images, etc. Availability of content in multiple formats, such as text, audio, and video, to cater to different needs.
  • Support Services: Technical support and helplines equipped to assist disabled users in navigating digital challenges. Online services like counseling, therapy, or medical consultations optimized for disabled individuals.

Incarcerated Individuals

To comprehensively address the digital needs of incarcerated individuals in Guam, OIPD embarked on multiple stakeholder consultations. Collaborations encompassed the Department of Youth Affairs, the Department of Corrections (DOC), Guam Superior Court, Guam Supreme Court, Guam Department of Education, and Guam Legal Services, among others. The imperative is clear: a multi-pronged strategy is essential to address the challenges faced by Guam's incarcerated individuals.

Opportunities identified include:

  • Telehealth Services: Ensuring incarcerated individuals have access to critical health services.
  • Essential Services Access: Including access to social and welfare services.
  • Employment Re-entry Programs: Facilitating their transition back into the community.
  • Education: Ensuring continuity in their learning and development.
  • Civic and Social Engagement: Granting them opportunities to stay informed and connected.


Guam's veterans, like many other veterans globally, have distinct needs arising from their experiences in service and the specific socioeconomic challenges they face post-service. When discussing digital equity for Guam's veterans, several focal points emerge that must be addressed to ensure they can effectively and confidently navigate the digital landscape.

These focal points include:

  • Access to Reliable Internet: Many veterans may reside in areas with limited or no high-speed internet access. Ensuring widespread, high-speed, and reliable connectivity is a foundational step toward achieving digital equity.
  • Digital Literacy Training: Some veterans, especially older ones, may not be as familiar with modern digital tools, platforms, or technologies. Customized digital literacy programs can bridge this gap, empowering them to utilize digital resources confidently.
  • Adaptive Technologies: Veterans with disabilities may require assistive technologies like screen readers, voice-activated systems, or specially designed hardware to access digital content effectively.
  • Telehealth Services: For those veterans who may have mobility issues or reside in remote areas, telehealth can be a helpful tool. It offers them access to medical consultations, mental health support, and other health services without the need for physical travel. Medical wearable devices can help track their health and alert medical professionals when attention is required.
  • Online Employment and Training Opportunities: Digital platforms that provide job training, skill development, and employment opportunities can be invaluable for veterans transitioning to civilian roles or looking for new career paths.
  • Mental Health Resources: Digital platforms offering counseling, mental health resources, and support groups can assist veterans, especially those dealing with PTSD or other service-related traumas.

Individuals who Belong to a Racial or Ethnic Minority

Guam is populated by various racial and ethnic groups, each possessing its own unique set of challenges and needs. In the pursuit of digital equity for Guam's racial and ethnic minorities, it's crucial to recognize and address these specific concerns. Here are some of the unique needs of these communities:

  • Linguistic Accessibility: Different communities have distinct languages and dialects. To ensure digital equity, platforms and digital tools must offer content in multiple languages, or at the very least, provide translation options.
  • Local Content: Empowering communities to create and share their own content can ensure a richer, more diverse digital landscape. Training and resources should be provided to promote local content creation that resonates with specific ethnic groups.
  • Community-Centric Training: Digital literacy training programs tailored to the nuances of each community can be more effective. Such programs should consider cultural practices, prevalent occupations, and specific community needs.
  • Affordability: Economic disparities among racial or ethnic groups might hinder their access to digital devices and services. Initiatives to provide affordable or subsidized devices and internet access are crucial.
  • Geographical Accessibility: Certain minority groups may reside in areas with limited digital infrastructure. Efforts must be made to extend reliable and high-speed internet connectivity to these areas.
  • Representation: Members of racial and ethnic minorities should be actively involved in decision-making processes related to digital initiatives. Their inclusion ensures that strategies and implementations genuinely reflect community needs.

Individuals Living in Rural Areas

Under specific federal programs and guidelines, every resident of Guam is considered to be a "rural resident." This categorization is not based on the traditional understanding of 'rural', which often denotes sparse population, vast open spaces, or agricultural landscapes. Instead, it's a product of federal policies designed to address the unique needs and challenges of the island.

This designation has significant implications for Guam. For one, it affects the flow of federal funds, ensuring that the island can access resources earmarked for rural development. These funds play a pivotal role in bolstering essential services, infrastructure, and initiatives, tailored to meet the unique needs of Guam's residents.

Individuals Who Live in Covered Households

Through OIPD’s outreach, Guam has found that barriers to digital equity among this population include financial constraints, lack of access to technology, and limited digital literacy. Creating a digital equity implementation strategy for individuals living in covered households (i.e., households under certain social or economic thresholds) in Guam involves a comprehensive approach focusing on outcomes that enhance digital inclusion and literacy.

Aging Individuals

Creating a digital equity implementation strategy specifically tailored for aging individuals in Guam involves addressing unique challenges and barriers that this demographic faces in the digital world.

Through discussions with members of this community, their families, and the organizations that serve them, OIPD has found that there is a great need for digital navigator programs to allow seniors to fully unlock the potential of the internet and all it has to offer in terms of healthcare, education, social activities, familial connections, and more, as well as cybersecurity and online personal safety training to keep them safe from predators that seek to take advantage of the island’s seniors. Some of Guam's seniors would benefit from one-on-one training outside of a group setting because they may experience embarrassment for not knowing how to use some forms of technology.

Reaching Guam’s seniors involves a holistic approach that addresses key areas such as affordability, access to age-appropriate devices, digital literacy training tailored for older adults, and technical support.

Implementation Strategy and Objectives

The following are some of Guam’s overarching strategies for driving toward the island's vision for digital equity.

1. Increase Broadband Availability & Affordability

Increase broadband coverage to reach 98 percent of households and businesses across Guam by 2029. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, 85.9 percent of households currently have a broadband internet subscription.

Key Activities

  • Through public-private partnerships, provide basic, free wireless broadband to all members of covered populations on the island.
  • Through the BEAD program, promote the availability of low-cost internet service subscriptions and middle-class affordability options and other reduced cost internet subscription plans offered by local carriers.
  • Using community anchor institutions, develop a network of free Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the island.
  • Continue to promote the use of the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) or its replacement.
  • Stand up a local subsidy program to defray the cost of broadband plans for the nearly 30,000 people or 20.2% of the population in households on Guam with incomes below the poverty level
  • Increase the number of homes that have consistent and reliable Wi-Fi access to enable the seamless use of wearable medical devices and other new technologies which are needed for the aging population, veterans, disabled people, and members of every other covered population.
  • Improve the ability of doctors to perform remote patient monitoring and check-ups by increasing the number of homes that have consistent and reliable Wi-Fi access.

Key Performance Indicators

  • Percentage increase in broadband coverage.
  • The average cost reduction of broadband plans is currently at $112.17 per month not including routers or other fees.
    • Short-term goal: $75 per month for the average household.
    • Long-term goal: $30 per month or less for the average household.
  • Percentage increase in households with broadband internet access.
    • Work with local carriers to determine increases in subscription numbers after BEAD infrastructure buildout.
  • Successful implementation of a network of free Wi-Fi hotspots at community anchor institutions.
    • Short-term: 5 CAI hotspots by the end of 2024.
    • Long-term: All CAIs by the end of 2029.
  • Successful implementation of free island-wide Wi-Fi using public-private partnerships.
  • Increase in the availability of remote patient monitoring and wearable medical devices.

2. Online Accessibility & Inclusivity

Key Activities

  • Ensure all public facilities, including schools, libraries, and government buildings, are equipped with accessible internet facilities. These facilities are currently without accessible internet tools and equipment with the exception of two ADA-compliant workstations at the Hagåtña library location.
  • Develop and implement web accessibility guidelines to ensure online services are usable by people with disabilities.
  • Use workforce development programs to provide training and support for web developers and content creators to produce accessible digital content.
  • Ensure that English learners are provided with translation services/materials needed to utilize online services.

Key Performance Indicators

  • Increase in the number of public facilities with internet accessibility to include the adoption of accessible programs, platforms, and software.
    • Short-term goal: Double the access at the Guam Public Library from 2 to 4 workstations by the end of 2024.
    • Long-term goal: Accessibility in all government of Guam public facilities by the end of 2029.
  • Percentage increase in accessible online services.
  • Increase in the number of individuals trained in creating accessible digital content.

3. Digital Literacy

Key Activities

  • Launch digital literacy programs targeting various covered populations with a focus on seniors, underserved, disabled, minority, rural residents, and incarcerated communities. Bring programs to these covered populations where they gather at senior centers, cultural facilities, Mayor’s offices, public housing institutions, and other places.
    • No digital literacy programs currently exist on the island as OIPD envisions them. At least one of Guam’s carriers offers online privacy training to senior citizens several times a year.
  • Increase the portion of covered populations equipped with basic digital skills.
  • Collaborate with educational institutions to integrate digital literacy curriculum in schools, starting from the primary level onwards with a focus on people living below the poverty level and in rural areas, minorities, and English learners.
  • Collaborate with the Department of Corrections and Department of Youth Affairs to initiate digital navigator programs that focus on allowing incarcerated individuals to obtain access to educational and social resources needed for successful reintegration into society.
  • Establish evening/weekend classes for aging persons, adult English learners, veterans, minorities, disabled, disadvantaged, and rural persons at community centers, public housing centers, and libraries to teach basic to advanced internet skills.
  • Work with local educational institutions to develop online tutorials and modules accessible to all members of the covered populations, allowing them to learn at their own pace.

Key Performance Indicators

  • The number of digital literacy programs launched that cater to members of the covered populations.
    • Short-term goal: Digital literacy programs in 3 government facilities by mid-2025.
    • Long-term goal: Digital literacy programs in all senior centers, libraries, public housing, Department of Corrections and Department of Youth Affairs by the end of 2027.
  • Integration level of digital literacy into educational institutions.
  • Number of incarcerated adults and youth who participate in digital skills learning programs.
  • Percentage increase in the covered populations with basic to advanced digital skills based on the number of participants who have successfully completed digital literacy courses.
  • Number of persons from covered populations who have completed online tutorials.

4. Cybersecurity and Online Privacy Enhancement Goals

Key Activities

  • Ensure all government websites and digital platforms adhere to top-tier security and privacy standards. Some government websites currently do not have these tools in place.
  • Work with the Office of Technology, Department of Homeland Security, and others to implement mandatory annual cybersecurity training for all government of Guam employees and contractors. There currently is no mandate for cybersecurity training.
  • Initiate a combined public awareness campaign by 2025, targeting members of the covered populations, educating them about the importance of cybersecurity and online privacy.
  • Launch cybersecurity awareness campaign.
  • Incorporate online privacy education into the standardized cybersecurity curriculum for all educational institutions in Guam by 2027. There is currently no standardized cybersecurity curriculum in schools.

Key Performance Indicators

  • Increase in the number of government websites that adhere to top-tier security and privacy standards.
  • Successful implementation of annual cybersecurity training for government of Guam employees and contractors by 2025.
  • Increase in the awareness of cybersecurity and privacy tools available among the covered populations. Percentage of the population covered by the combined awareness campaign.
  • The number of professionals trained in combined cybersecurity and online privacy programs.
  • Participation counts in annual cybersecurity and privacy workshops and conferences.
  • Online privacy education standardized cybersecurity curriculum available in all educational institutions.

5. Device Availability & Affordability

Key Activities

  • Establish technology lending programs in libraries, village community centers, and other community anchor institutions, providing access to devices for those who can't afford them. Currently, no CAIs have device lending programs.
  • Establish a process to collect and disseminate refurbished computers that are more than 5 years old but are in good working condition to non-profit and community organizations. Those organizations would be expected to distribute the computer devices to those most in need from the various covered populations. This process currently does not exist.

Key Performance Indicators

  • The number of community anchor institutions lending devices to members of covered populations.
  • Increase in the percentage of low-income and other covered households with at least one internet-enabled device. According to the 2020 US Census, in Guam, 95 percent of households owned a computer and 85 percent had a broadband internet subscription.
  • Availability and uptake of refurbished/discounted/free devices.

6. Maximizing Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) Participation (or its replacement program):

Key Activities

  • Implement a comprehensive outreach campaign to inform eligible individuals and households about the Affordable Connectivity Program, highlighting its benefits and application process.
  • Streamline and simplify the application process by collaborating with federal partners (SNAP, free lunch program, etc.) to automatically enroll eligible participants.
  • Partner with relevant agencies (Public Health, GHURA, Guam Housing, Guam Department of Labor, etc.) to include ACP program information during the onboarding process for various programs.
  • Simplify the application process by providing multiple options for submission, including online, phone, and in-person assistance at community centers, Mayor’s offices, and other government offices.
  • Collaborate with local community organizations, schools, and businesses to raise awareness and facilitate application assistance events.
  • Track and report the number of eligible applicants who successfully enroll in the Affordable Connectivity Program.

Key Performance Indicators

  • Reach and engagement metrics of the outreach campaign.
  • Percentage increase in the number of applications submitted compared to the previous period.
  • Number of successful enrollments in the Affordable Connectivity Program. Currently, 1,276 eligible Guam residents enrolled in the program.
    • Short-term goal: Increase participation by 20 percent by the end of 2026.
    • Long-term goal: Increase participation by 100 percent or more by 2026.

Guam Wants to Hear From You

Public comments on Guam's draft Digital Equity Plan can be submitted here or by email at until March 31, 2024. For more information on digital equity in Guam, visit the Office of Infrastructure Policy and Development website.

Quick Bits

Weekend Reads (resist tl;dr)

ICYMI from Benton

Upcoming Events

Mar 25––The Right Connection (CENIC)

Mar 27––Communications Equity and Diversity Council (FCC)

Apr 4––Consumer Advisory Committee Meeting (FCC)

Apr 9––Broadband Equity is Local (Community Broadband Action Network)

Apr 17––2024 Bipartisan Tech Policy Conference (Next Century Cities)

Apr 25––April 2024 Open Federal Communications Commission Meeting (FCC)

May 23––May 2024 Open Federal Communications Commission Meeting (FCC)

Jun 6-7––2024 Conference on Artificial Intelligence & Financial Stability (US Dept of Treasury)

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