Innovators in Digital Inclusion

Innovators in Digital Inclusion

[token node pull-quote-1-left]In research released early in 2016, Benton Faculty Research Fellow Dr. Colin Rhinesmith explored the critical work being done in communities across the United States to address gaps in broadband adoption. He found that the efforts that emphasize human-to-human interactions are the most helpful to individuals and families. To promote broadband adoption in ways that are most appropriate to personal needs and contexts, local organizations should focus on: 1) Providing low-cost broadband, 2) Connecting digital literacy training with relevant content and services, 3) Making low-cost computers available, and 4) Operating public access computing centers.

But successful, local digital inclusion efforts differ from organization to organization. To help deepen Rhinesmith’s original research, the Benton Foundation and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) are now publishing a series of articles that explore the origins, strategies, challenges and funding mechanisms for successful digital inclusion organizations. We’d like to inject the experiences of each organization into ongoing policy discussions that affect federal, state and local digital inclusion efforts -- and to highlight best practices for other organizations working in this space.

PCs for People (St. Paul, Minnesota), Axiom Education and Training Center (Machias, Maine), Ashbury Senior Computer Community Center (Cleveland, Ohio), Connecting for Good (Kansas City, Kansas), Free Geek (Portland, Oregon), Youth Policy Institute (Los Angeles, California), Austin Free-Net (Austin, Texas), and Multnomah County Library (Portland, Oregon). Each of these organizations are doing phenomenal work to bridge the digital divide and promote digital inclusion. But each one has a unique approach to meeting this challenge. [token node content-image-1-right]

We’re starting with PCs for People, an organization which refurbishes recycled computers and provides affordable technology and broadband service to low-income individuals and families. PCs for People’s work is touching many lives, helping to improve educational and economic outcomes.

The ultimate aim of this digital inclusion work is a truly inclusive digital society in which we all have affordable access to essential telecommunications services and devices – and the skills needed to use them to improve our lives and our communities. Because, as I think we all know, broadband and fluency with technology fuel economic growth, provide access to the world’s knowledge, promote skill development, and build stronger and more connected communities.

Innovators in Digital Inclusion series

By Adrianne B. Furniss.