To make meaningful progress toward achieving Digital Equity, organizations and individuals in Franklin County must work to ensure all under-resourced residents have the digital resources necessary to live, learn, earn, and play in Franklin County, by:
- Ensuring under-resourced residents have access to residential internet, connected devices, and digital skills training opportunities.
- At an equitable level of quality that enables today’s online experiences, and
- At an affordable price point for low-income households.
Fundamentals of Digital Equity
The digital divide is the gap between those who have affordable access to connectivity, devices, skills, and support and those who do not. Though this divide has been apparent since the dawn of the Internet, socio-economic changes magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the need to level the playing field for digital opportunity now.
Digital Inclusion refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of information and communication technologies, including the internet and the skills needed to use the web. The pandemic accelerated digital transformation, changing how we learn, work, receive healthcare, obtain information, and connect with each other. Digital Inclusion activities must evolve as technology evolves.
Digital equity is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services. Achieving digital equity will enable Franklin County’s future prosperity— a future in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy.
The Urgency to Act
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the realities of the digital divide, while simultaneously accelerating the digital transformation of society, widening the gap even further. The impacts of the pandemic are still being understood, but it is clear that today there is:
- Increased inequity between those with and without digital access.
- Accelerating rate of jobs that require digital skills
- Increased demand for digital skills across sectors including education, workforce development, social services, healthcare, and the justice system.
- Clear growth in digital services and experiences that is only expected to continue to grow.
The digital divide has been an issue since the inception of the Internet. While Internet use has become an inextricable part of society, the divide persists, demonstrating that the market can not close the gap on its own. In acknowledgement of this issue, the federal government has committed historic funding to solve the issue. In addition to the potential to tap into local funds (including bonds) and philanthropic sources, we are likely to see notable federal investment over the next five years.