This post was written by Digital Equity in Libraries research team member Matthew Timberlake, IT Project Portfolio Manager at Multnomah County Library.
In June of 2014, a small group sat down at Portland State University to try to figure out how to foster increased digital inclusion in our community.
The City of Portland, Multnomah County Library, and Multnomah County became the founding members of the greater Portland area Digital Inclusion Network (DIN), which brought together more than 48 organizational partners from community non-profits, government, business, public schools, higher education and media to develop a Digital Equity Action Plan (DEAP).
We began by holding multiple focus groups with communities who often lack digital access. The results confirmed the research being done nationally: The cost of broadband Internet and the devices needed to use it, as well as the scarcity of culturally specific training, are barriers to meaningful Internet adoption for marginalized groups.
The DIN used the focus group findings as the basis for a series of workshops to craft a digital strategy. The resulting strategic plan reflects the many voices at the table: new immigrants, communities of color, youth, community-based organizations and nonprofits, local government, and telco providers such as Comcast and Google Fiber.
By including so many community groups early in the formulation of the DEAP, we’ve increased our participation and commitment to action. Organizations are working to meet commitments and reach milestones they helped craft.
The DEAP identifies several action items across the five Digital Equity Goals:
Access: Ensure access to affordable high-speed Internet and devices for those in need.
Training/Support: Provide training and support to ensure that everyone has the skills to use digital technology to enhance their quality of life.
Leadership/Capacity Building: Empower community partners to bridge the digital divide through funding, coordination, training and staff resources.
Connectivity to the Digital Economy: Create opportunities for jobs in the digital economy for underserved populations.
Policy: Build a policy framework that supports digital equity and meaningful Internet adoption, leading to better community outcomes.
In April of 2016, the Digital Equity Action Plan was unanimously approved by the Portland City Council and the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners and Library District Board. Work has begun by the lead organizations to meet our milestones for our first year, and we’re excited to see the results.