Understanding the digital divide
In the past year, the digital divide has surfaced to public consciousness as a major social issue. While the UN declared internet access as being a human right in the summer of 2016, it was not until this year that the digital divide became a major topic of conversation – even comedian and talk show host Hassan Minaj covered this issue in a 2019 episode of Patriot Act entitled “Why Your Internet Sucks“. In the midst of a global pandemic, more journalists covered stories on the homework gap and more researchers uncovered data on the digital divide.
Now more than ever –this issue is being examined with scrutiny. This is why we held an event series, [digital divide], this past summer. [digital divide] was based on four events across the government, tech, public health, and civic engagement spectrum that addressed various reasons why digital engagement and technology is often so exclusive. Each event concluded with ways we can proceed to support digital equity –and the event we closed out with gave us the most concrete steps yet!
Our finale event was hosted in September with the City of Detroit’s Inaugural Director of Digital Inclusion. Joshua has testified in front of the Congress on the matter of digital Equity, hosted Detroit’s first digital inclusion Summit and most recently helped to raise 23 million dollars to supply every public school student with broadband services and a device. With all of these milestones, Joshua’s work has only begun but he has developed some keys on tacking the digital divide that we want to share.
City of Detroit's 6-step community-centric method
During our conversation, Joshua gave details on his work, his most pressing challenges, and most importantly how community stakeholders are included in this process.
Joshua stated, “.. if I’m going to be looking at any issue right now that touches just so many things from Healthcare to banking to learning to wellbeing, whatever, tech has existed at those intersections and is being insulated in that approach and so when I say community organizing and community accountability and Community governance, these are the factors that I am really focusing on. It is one thing to say I am going to connect households to computers, but there is another digital divide going on here.”
As our conversation unfolded, we learned of six key steps the City of Detroit has included in their DigitalInclusion program. Honestly, these are more than steps. They are a designed methodology which builds community trust and collaboration and includes:
- Leverage Community
- Operationalize Your Efforts
- Create a model to replicate
- Keep Engagement As a Priority
- Create a Community Culture
- Empower Your Stakeholders