Angelina Panettieri, the legislative manager for information technology and communications with the National League of Cities, is involved with efforts to connect cities with each other so they can share lessons learned during the crisis, and she, too, pointed to digital inclusion as one of the more pressing matters currently facing local leadership. It’s a challenge that faces both the public and private sector as well as city hall itself — how can organizations get devices into people’s hands so they can conduct all their business online?
As digital equity work becomes a new priority for decision-makers in both the public and private sectors, several state governments have already put quite a bit of work into bridging the digital divide, primarily by working to foster better broadband access. What Pew Charitable Trust researchers have found is that there’s no magic bullet — no incentive, regulation, law or partnership — that by itself can fix the digital divide. There are, of course, actions that can be taken at all levels of government to support the work.
Amid the homebound social isolation of the coronavirus, society as a whole has never had so stark a reminder of why broadband matters and what life looks like for those who lack access. With that in mind, Government Technology recently spoke with experts, advocates and those working on broadband initiatives in both state and local government. What emerged is a picture of a resurging interest in closing the digital divide, as well as a host of predictions and suggestions around fast-tracking efforts.