Digital Inclusion and Equity: Why Now

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[Commentary] Why are we talking about digital inclusion and equity now in a way that is different from, say, eight years ago? The obvious answer – very different presidential administrations – only touches the surface. Consumers are adopting digital tools like never before and, in some segments of the U.S., we’ve reached a “tech abundance” threshold that is driving a bottom-up interest in digital inclusion in many communities. Tech abundance doesn’t mean that everyone in society has adopted digital tools. Rather, it means that enoughpeople have them – usually about a third of the population – to spark a change in how society thinks about the consequences of new technology. Community-driven digital inclusion won’t single-handedly reverse the tide of mistrust in institutions and information sources, but it can help. And the public far outpace government officials in interest in digital inclusion resources. Three-quarters (76%) of adult Americans said libraries should definitely have programs or services to educate people on online privacy and security, far greater than the 45% figure registered when local government officials answered the same question. Digital inclusion is emerging as a community need and has the potential to be part of the antidote for widespread distrust in information. But digital inclusion is not a priority everywhere. Some cities have active digital inclusion efforts, while other cities may have interest in it, but have yet to take action. There are digital inclusion models emerging that knit together city funding, community non-profits, anchor institutions such as libraries, and public-private partnerships. Communities late to the game, with the right resources and guidance, have a chance to make tech abundance and digital inclusion a reality for all.


Digital Inclusion and Equity: Why Now