Celebrate Digital Inclusion at SHLB’s Annual Conference
BY AMY ROBINSON, SHLB STAFF
Today marks the end of Digital Inclusion Week. Thank you to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) and NTEN for organizing and inspiring this campaign. People spanning the nation have come together in an online community, sparked conversations, shared stories, and asked the big questions. How do we connect our communities? Which populations suffer the most from digital inequity? How do we teach the young, the elderly, the unemployed to be digital citizens? While the week may be drawing to a close, the efforts of digital inclusion champions are far from over.
The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition’s upcoming Annual Conference recognizes that succeeding in the fight for Digital Inclusion requires a comprehensive approach in which anchor institutions play a leading role. Digital Inclusion is not a uni-dimensional issue but demands instead a quilted effort involving an entire community. Accordingly, not only will “United States of Anchors: SHLB’s Seventh Annual Conference” feature an in-depth and interactive Digital Inclusion Workshop, it will also include a dedicated Digital Inclusion track.
The Digital Inclusion Workshop on Wed. May 31, co-organized with NDIA, presents an holistic view of Digital Inclusion, covering the perspective of public housing authorities, government officials responsible for Lifeline, and innovative Digital Inclusion champions on the ground promoting access. As this past week as shown, it is incredibly inspiring to see Digital Inclusion advocacy in action. Hear about NDIA’s Digital Inclusion Corps, Kansas City Public Library’s pilot program, and Byte Back’s efforts to recycle technology. The Workshop will also set the rumors straight on Lifeline by hearing directly from the FCC on the matter.
The break-out sessions on the Digital Inclusion track (June 1 and 2) are even more wide-ranging. Panelists from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Housing Authorities will discuss how public housing authorities can connect communities by using new technologies like mesh networks. The U.S. Department of Education and school district technology officers will dive into how community partnerships can further address the Homework Gap.
Schools, libraries, hospitals, and other anchors are powerful advocates for Digital Inclusion. Not only can peers, patrons, and patients visit the physical anchor to access the Internet, but the anchor can also extend its network beyond the walls. In another break-out session, Gigabit Libraries Network will discuss its recent “Beyond the Walls” initiative to help libraries install TV WhiteSpaces to extend their signal with strategically placed hotspots. Merit Network Inc. and Microsoft will also discuss their recent TV WhiteSpaces initiatives to connect communities in Michigan and around the world.
In many ways, Digital Inclusion is about weaving technology throughout a city’s fabric. That’s why representatives from Sprint, Chicago Community Trust, City of Boston, and the Cleveland Foundation will explore how smart cities and 5G technology can be leveraged to engage residents and ultimately improve digital citizenship.
One cannot tackle Digital Inclusion alone. Digital Inclusion requires schools, libraries, health clinics, and all other anchors banding together. It requires innovative, on-the-ground work and company support. It requires policymakers and people sitting down to have a conversation about needs and how to address them. It requires all of us uniting. So let’s carry the energy of Digital Inclusion Week into the “United States of Anchors” conference and beyond. Because Digital Inclusion is possible if we all reach together.
To learn more about Digital Inclusion at “United States of Anchors,” visit 2017conference.shlb.org.