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Digital Inclusion Week Reflections: Looking Back & Moving Forward

By Caitlin Blockus & Navreet Hundal

Pictured: Jerry Yamashita (Highlands Community Charter Schools), Abi Waldrupe (National Digital Inclusion Alliance), Danielle Stephen (mohuman), Carolyn Glauda (Digital Navigators of the Hudson Valley)

During the first week of October, the Capital Region Coalition for Digital Inclusion (CRCDI) celebrated Digital Inclusion Week for the third year in a row. The National Digital Inclusion Alliance defines this week of advocacy as, “an annual week of awareness, recognition, and celebration…aiming to raise awareness of solutions addressing home internet access, personal devices, and local technology training and support programs.”

Digital Inclusion Week, a bustling time for digital advocacy across the country, also provides our team with an opportunity to pause and look back across our digital inclusion milestones from this past year. Formerly known as the Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion (SCDI), our coalition expanded in 2022 to serve the full Capital Region – including El Dorado, Placer, Alpine, Yuba, Yolo, Colusa, Glenn, Sacramento and Sutter counties. As a reflection of this change, our group also changed its name to the Capital Region Coalition for Digital Inclusion (CRCDI). Our name change and the growth of this service area is especially important, as rural counties are often the highest underserved when it comes to internet access and digital inclusion resources.

On theme with this expansion, and in seeking to provide the community with direct access to digital inclusion resources, we partnered with mohuman, a nonprofit organization based out of San Diego which strives to ensure that children and families in under-resourced communities have the digital resources they need to thrive and realize their full potential. Through our collaboration with mohuman, in the spring of 2022 the Coalition launched the Capital Region Digital Inclusion Portal, an online platform allowing community members and those serving them to easily search for resources, including free and low cost computers, internet services, information on the Affordable Connectivity Plan, and digital skill building tools/training. During Digital Inclusion Week this fall, we worked alongside mohuman to redesign the portal’s homepage – expanding accessibility and allowing users to casually browse through different categories and featured resource listings.

Providing the Capital Region with this comprehensive digital inclusion portal not only provides direct access to these resources, but also provides an asset mapping system for our area. According to the National Telecommunications and information Administration (NTIA), “Asset mapping is used to collect, organize, and track data for building digital equity strategies and plans for new and improved infrastructure. Whether focused on a single neighborhood or an entire state, digital inclusion coalitions, organizations, and public agencies across the country use asset mapping to identify resources, build partnerships, and plan for future work.” We are excited to provide our region with this opportunity to connect our communities, better understand our digital resource and service gaps, and continue our work to include the digitally underserved. We are honored to share that the Capital Region Digital Inclusion Portal has been lifted up as an example within NTIA’s Asset Mapping Guide, and look forward to continuing to forge an empowering and inclusive path forward with this tool.

Asset mapping, tools like the Capital Region Digital Inclusion Portal, and the ability to access and utilize digital resources are essential for community members and for the work of Digital Navigators. According to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, “Digital Navigators are individuals who address the whole digital inclusion process — home connectivity, devices, and digital skills — with community members through repeated interactions.” These trusted guides provide ongoing assistance with affordable internet access, device acquisition, technical skills/application support, and are crucial to connecting communities and closing the digital divide.

The Capital Region Coalition for Digital Inclusion recently highlighted local, state, and national digital navigator programs at its quarterly meeting on September 23rd. Our digital navigator panel featured Digital Navigators of the Hudson Valley, Highlands Community Charter Schools, mohuman, and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA). Panel members provided key insights into the development and implementation of their programs, including training curriculums, outreach, funding methods, and community impact.

Looking forward to the end of this year, the Coalition is excited to host our next CRCDI meeting on December 9th, where we will be diving into the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a federal benefit program which provides a monthly internet discount as well as a device discount for eligible populations and tribal communities. At this convening, we will be joined by Gladys Palpallatoc, a Federal Program Officer and the State Lead for California in the NTIA’s Office of Internet and Connectivity Growth. Our team will also share data on ACP adoption in our region, and how community members can benefit from applying for the ACP. Valley Vision and the CRCDI’s work to expand ACP adoption and support in our region would not be possible without support from the California Emerging Technology Fund.

The CRCDI deeply appreciates the support of our Steering Committee, funders, and our Coalition members who have joined us for quarterly meetings, Digital Inclusion Week, and supported us in our push for digital equity this year. Digital access, skill-building, and connectivity is vital to the success of our communities and our region, and we are excited for the progress and action to come in 2023!