According to Washington, DC’s Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), Victor L. Hoskins, DC is the number one tech hotspot in North America. The cities diverse international culture which offer world-class museums and monuments, unique neighborhoods, and gorgeous common spaces, all compliment the local exchange of business and social goods. As the world of technology expands it’s impact and usefulness within the district, the DC community looks to leverage its unique authority in hopes of bridging a digital divide and guiding a new age of digital citizenship. That is why DC’s Digital Inclusion Initiative (Connect.DC) has launched a new guide on how being online can improve the lives of residents.
What is the Digital Divide?
While there is no single definition, the digital divide is commonly understood to be the gap between people with useful access to digital and information technologies and those with little to no access at all. In 2013 the city had an estimated population of over 640,000, making DC the 24th most populous place in the US. As the district enjoys its distinctive identity as an international city with ties to foreign governments, institutions, businesses, and investors which bolster DC’s vibrant economy – there remains about 150,000 district residents who do not have broadband internet access at home. Created by the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO), Connect.DC works to bridge this digital divide by making technology easier to use, more accessible, more affordable, and more relevant to the everyday lives of District residents and community institutions.
Why it matters?
As Technology continues to change the way we communicate, work, study, conduct business, and live our daily lives, the need to promote broadband adoption among underserved populations is imperative. Within the district the average home broadband adoption rate in Wards 1, 2, 3, 4 (mostly affluent/higher income wards) is 85%, compared to an average rate of 65% in Wards 5, 7, and 8 (wards with higher percentage of low income households). Today, people who don’t have access to the Internet, can’t afford it, don’t know how to use it, or don’t fully understand why it’s important are at a great disadvantage more than ever. Bridging the digital divide not only allows underserved communities access to internet, but it also allows them the opportunity to tap the socioeconomic benefits and potential of being online.
Connect.DC’s Guide to Digital Citizenship
During it’s now bi-annual Do Something Better – A Nonprofit Technology Summit, more than 200 nonprofit executives, tech enthusiasts, and innovators swarmed Arena Stage on March 25th. Hosted by Connect.DC, national nonprofit EveryoneOn and the Mayor’s Office of Partnerships and Grant Services (OPGS), this summit served as a platform for nonprofits to incorporate tech into daily operations and outreach as well as join the effort to combat the digital divide in the District. Among the many highlights from the summit, Connect.DC’s launch of its Guide to Digital Citizenship allowed attendees another way to promote digital literacy and access within their communities. The handbook features a list of 12 ways being online can improve a person’s life and ability to use technology to reach goals and respond to everyday challenges. With this, nonprofits and various partners are given tangible measures that speak on the how-to’s and benefits of bridging the divide and promoting digital citizenship.
Connect.DC’s Track Record
Moving beyond pamphlets and summits, Connect.DC’s unique position as a local government initiative has allowed it to mobilize community partners to help train residents, lower broadband cost, increase adoption, provide affordable hardware, and map public tech access locations, in seemingly rapid speed. Though much more remains to be done, within it’s short existence this initiative’s track record speaks to the great potential and need for connecting underserved district residents to technology. Having now trained over 7,900 residents on basic, intermediate, and advanced tech training, reaching the remaining 142,000+ without internet access through online outreach is a tough balancing act. As public awareness increases, Connect.DC continues to bolster its offline programming and partnerships to fulfill its mission of bridging the digital divide.
Mariel Kanene is Founder and Editor of TheArtOfPersptive.co and lead storyteller with a focus on music, startups and travel. His passion for storytelling was born in Kinshasa, Congo and bred in Washington, DC where he resides. By day, Mariel spends his days slowly trying to change the world—one meaningful interaction at a time. He loves reading factual-fiction, good podcasts, traveling, health and fitness, foreign languages and good conversations over good coffee and even better rum. He hates talking about himself in third person.Thanks for stopping by. Always appreciated. Find me on: Twitter | Instagram | Linkedin | Website.