From Draft State of Oregon Digital Equity Plan (October 2023)

It is the vision of the State of Oregon that all people in Oregon will have access to affordable and reliable high-speed broadband internet to attain positive economic, educational, and health outcomes and to participate in social and civic life. The state’s commitment arises from Oregon’s recognition of the criticality of digital equity to the well-being of the many diverse people of Oregon. Meaningful access to the internet is essential to thriving in the 21st century. Digital equity enables economic opportunity as well as supports educational, healthcare, and civic participation goals. 

Digital equity allows all people to fully participate in the economy of innovation and creativity, which helps to foster the goal of economic opportunity. Civic participation goals can be achieved because digital equity allows all people to have the tools to register to vote, engage in meaningful online discourse, and be better connected to the communities in which they live. The goal of healthcare access for all people is fostered by digital equity because of the knowledge and confidence that is gained from learning new digital skillsets that can be applied to telemedicine and to enable easier access to personal healthcare information. Digital equity inherently supports educational goals, bringing learning to the home and on the go for all people of Oregon. 

In the state’s vision, all people in Oregon will have access to the following five critical elements of digital equity

  1. Universal access to affordable and reliable high-speed home internet. Consistent with the Oregon Five-Year Action Plan and considerable efforts of recent years, OBO seeks to ensure that all people in Oregon have access to a robust fixed broadband connection at their home. As addressed in the FiveYear Action Plan, OBO will seek to maximize the reach and impact of various funding sources, including the BEAD Program allocation, to extend broadband infrastructure throughout the state. OBO furthermore seeks to work with partners on strategies that can improve affordability, particularly for the covered populations for whom this is a significant barrier. This effort will involve coordination with entities dedicated to enabling eligible households to access federal support programs such as the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and Lifeline, as well as mandating affordability into the scoring and requirements for all broadband grant programs.
  2. Universal access to an affordable, quality, internet-enabled computing device that meets the person’s needs. OBO seeks to work with nonprofit and public partners to expand ownership of computing devices, as well as the ability to support, maintain, and repair those devices. Among other approaches, OBO will work with partners to support eligible households in their purchase of computing devices under the ACP during the life of the program, and any subsequent or similar initiatives should they be funded.  
  3. Universal access to digital literacy skills and quality technical support in culturally and linguistically diverse in-community spaces. OBO seeks to expand access to digital literacy skills training, recognizing that covered populations face significant challenges in this area. OBO will work through experienced stakeholders that have established skills training courses and to support and expand existing efforts to serve more people in Oregon.
  4. Universal access to the tools and information necessary to protect one’s online safety and privacy. OBO recognizes that some people in Oregon, particularly those that are lower-income or older adults, report greater challenges and more discomfort regarding their ability to protect themselves online. OBO seeks to work through experienced stakeholders that have established training courses in this space, leveraging existing capabilities and expanding outcome-driven programs to reach more communities.  
  5. Universal access to inclusive state resources and online content for essential services and programs. Oregon seeks to ensure inclusive design of online content by collaborating with state agencies that serve people with disabilities and people who speak a language other than English so that these community members have full access to needed digital tools and content.  

To achieve this vision for digital equity, OBO will adopt the following four framework principles for its digital equity efforts: 

  1. Prioritize data and rigorous information gathering that helps drive decision making on the prioritization of limited resources. As it has done in awarding broadband infrastructure grants, Oregon will adopt a data-driven approach to grantmaking for digital equity. Data will similarly be the basis for measuring both needs and achievements over time and OBO will continue to lead in data collection. This will enable progress toward digital equity to be measured on an ongoing basis using data on access, usage, skills, and outcomes. Regular evaluations will ensure that programs are effective, adaptable, and responsive to evolving needs.
  2. Engage and collaborate with a broad spectrum of diverse and representative stakeholders through processes that are inclusive and reach underserved and marginalized communities. Digital equity work requires collaboration and partnerships. OBO will continue to engage with its local government, ISP, organized labor, and CAI stakeholders to solicit ideas, insights, priorities, and lessons learned. OBO also recognizes the layered complexities that members of covered populations may experience and as such will seek to be intentional and proactive in its engagement. OBO will similarly continue its efforts to collaborate with tribal nations, another important and critical constituency in Oregon.
  3. Build on existing achievements and collaboration by acknowledging and incorporating the work and best practices that have been accomplished statewide. The State of Oregon will leverage and benefit from the efforts of other entities that have spent years developing expertise and capabilities with proven success in digital inclusion programming. Rather than attempt to replicate or recreate those capabilities, OBO will provide data, support, and resources to entities that already have developed, and proven the efficacy and efficiency of, existing programs to address digital equity. In this way, the State of Oregon will respect local and community experience and know-how, working to support its stakeholders that have proven capabilities in digital inclusion work. This collaboration is particularly important with respect to utilizing proven best practices on inclusivity with members of covered populations.
  4. Respect and incorporate culturally and linguistically diverse communities as partners of the process towards reaching established and agreed upon goals and outcomes. Respecting and incorporating the cultural and linguistic diversity of communities is essential for creating inclusive and effective programs that serve the needs of all people in Oregon. OBO will be thoughtful and inclusive when conducting outreach on affordable internet and digital literacy programs, ensuring alignment with existing efforts to improve outcomes.