Tuesday, August 1, 2023
Benton Institute Urges States to "Dream Big" in Digital Equity Plans
With historic public investment in universal broadband flowing from the federal government, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society today released a guide to help states "dream big" and envision how ubiquitous, reliable, affordable, high-speed internet access will improve the lives of all their residents.
Benton Institute Executive Director Adrianne B. Furniss said, "We’re asking states to articulate what success looks like when we achieve Internet for All."
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico are currently working on digital equity plans. One key component of the plans is the development of states’ visions for digital equity. These efforts are the initial state-level planning and envisioning at this scale and scope.
Recognizing the importance of this unique opportunity, the Benton Institute launched the Visions of Digital Equity project to aid states and communities in the creation and evaluation of digital equity visions. Through surveys, community meetings, interviews, conversations, and a collaborative writing process with community contributors, the Benton Institute arrived at a set of ten principles to help guide both the process and the resulting visions of digital equity.
A well-crafted vision of digital equity has the potential to be very powerful by:
- Offering a glimpse of a state transformed by universal connectivity,
- Providing a roadmap and resources for the digital inclusion efforts to come, and
- Acting as a north star for goal setting, planning, and implementation efforts over the months and years to come.
"Digital equity—or, digital opportunity, if you prefer—is having a moment," said Furniss. "To make the most of this moment and capture the potential of these historic broadband investments, states must 'lead with equity,' intentionally identifying, amplifying, and centering the voices of those most affected by the digital divide and disconnected communities. Working with communities, states can start dreaming about improving education, widening the reach of healthcare services, making economic development more robust, connecting people with jobs, delivering government services online, and better engaging people in the democratic process.
"We need to aim past wires," Furniss continued, "and keep in mind that what we are really connecting is people to opportunity."
Today, the Benton Institute is sharing this guide with statewide broadband offices around the country. Visions of Digital Equity is available online at www.benton.org/publications/visions-digital-equity
As part of the Benton Institute's ongoing work in this area, the Institute is also tracking what each state says is its vision of digital equity. Find your state's vision as it becomes available at www.benton.org/visions-digital-equity/state-vision
The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.
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