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Regional Broadband Consortia Powers up for Three More Years

In November 2019, Valley Vision was awarded funding to manage the Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortia (CCABC) for the next three years, working alongside other regional consortia to achieve 98% broadband access within each region – its third grant from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) since 2012.

The CCABC is tasked to facilitate the deployment of broadband infrastructure throughout the four-county CCABC region (Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba counties), working with local municipalities, Internet service providers (ISPs), anchor institutions, community partners, and the State, among others to close the Digital Divide and improve access for the next three years. In this new phase of funding, the CCABC plans to use a reverse RFP approach, which will place a thorough case for investment in the hands of providers. The intent is to generate a more active response from providers by fulfilling as much of the planning work as possible and promoting competition.

Although there was a hiatus in CPUC funding in 2019 for most regional consortia, the CCABC was able to engage multiple stakeholders through several initiatives to improve broadband access, adoption and deployment. In February 2019, Valley Vision helped host a Digital Inclusion Summit, alongside the Sacramento Public Library and the City of Sacramento’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development, bringing together more than 100 participants, to facilitate collaboration among organizations and initiatives working to bridge the digital divide. This summit led to the development of the Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion and the Digital Inclusion Week resolution passed in the City of Sacramento. In March 2019, Valley Vision hosted FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, to discuss rural broadband infrastructure and connectivity issues related to lack of eligibility for federal funding due to rural definitions, among other challenges. Chairman Pai visited two farms which are piloting ag technologies and the AgStart incubator in Woodland, and met with local and state policy leaders. The CCABC continues to work with the Chairman’s office and other Commissioners to address funding, mapping and other infrastructure challenges, along with federal agencies including NTIAEDA and USDA and congressional representatives to advance regional broadband priorities. This work will continue as part of the 2020 Cap-to-Cap trip in April.

Through funding from the Delta Protection Commission, Valley Vision developed a broadband action plan for five legacy communities along the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, all facing rural broadband infrastructure and funding challenges. As a lead partner in developing the Capital Region Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), with support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Valley Vision incorporated broadband infrastructure and access priorities into both the infrastructure and workforce/digital skills strategies. Additionally, with support from the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), Valley Vision manages the Strategic Broadband Corridors Project, a statewide effort to coordinate the network of broadband consortia with CalTrans to conduct joint use/dig once projects along priority corridors/highways.

Glenda Humiston (VP of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources), Trish Kelly (Managing Director of Valley Vision), and Sunne McPeak (President & CEO of CA Emerging Technology Fund) at the Broadband Policy Forum.

To get updates on the Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium and the Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion, subscribe to our broadband newsletter today!

Yzabelle Dela Cruz is a Valley Vision Project Associate contributing to the Innovation & Infrastructure and 21st Century Workforce impact areas.

Valley Vision’s Trish Kelly also contributed to the writing of this blog.

A Strategic Approach to Connecting the Region

Valley Vision has led regional broadband access and deployment efforts in Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba Counties for several years now, but our involvement in a new and innovative statewide partnership is helping rural regions across California get connected, one transportation project at a time.

On October 17, the California Broadband Council (CBC) held its final meeting of 2019. Valley Vision’s Trish Kelly addressed the CBC on behalf of its Strategic Broadband Corridors (SBC) Task Force, to provide an update on the SBC Project, including its status, issues for consideration moving forward, and next steps.

The SBC Project was initiated in the Fall of 2018, at a Stakeholders Meeting on Strategic Corridors hosted by the California Department of Technology (CDT). At that meeting, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) highlighted its next steps in “Dig-Once” policy implementation, including the need to identify so-called “corridor gaps” — strategic corridors where no Internet service provider or public agency is prepared for installation of broadband infrastructure in alignment with construction of a transportation project. In response, Tom West — the Manager of the North Bay North Coast Broadband Consortium — volunteered for the 16-member Regional Broadband Consortia, funded by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), to develop a list of regional priorities and a statewide map for Caltrans and the California Transportation Commission (CTC). Thus, the Strategic Broadband Corridors Project was born, with the ultimate goal of engaging the Consortia to coordinate planning and development of broadband and transportation projects with Caltrans and the CTC.

As a follow-up to the initial Fall 2018 Stakeholders Meeting, the Consortia — including Valley Vision, which manages the Connected Capital Broadband Consortium — identified the SBCs in an initial draft report. While this was a promising first step, the report was overly broad, listing almost every major transportation corridor in California. Caltrans’ Chris Schmidt suggested that the Consortia further narrow the list by choosing three “priority” corridors per region. Valley Vision agreed to help coordinate these next steps, together with its partners — the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), the California Association of Councils of Government (CalCOG), California Forward (CaFWD), and CSU Chico. The CBC, the CPUC, other state agencies, and our congressional delegation – especially Congressman Garamendi and Congresswoman Matsui – all have been consistent champions for broadband infrastructure and very engaged since Fall 2018.

A scene from the post-Broadband Council meeting at The Gualco Group, Inc. on October 17

At the October 17 CBC meeting, Kelly provided updates on the delivery to Caltrans of the updated SBC report and maps with three “priority corridors” per region; results of the stakeholder meeting that took place in September, in which the Regional Consortia, CalCOG, the state agencies, and the internet service providers discussed issues and challenges in transportation policy and funding; and coordination with the Rural Transportation Planning Agencies (RTPAs). Kelly also highlighted the need for continued conversation around issues such as the regions’ eligibility for transportation funding to be used for broadband infrastructure deployment; the adoption of “Dig Once/Joint-Use” policies and planning; permitting challenges and variations across Caltrans districts; and overall funding availability/constraints with the CPUC.

After the meeting, partners, stakeholders, and representatives from state agencies gathered at The Gualco Group, Inc. to break bread and engage in dialogue on next steps towards digital equity. Bob Gore of the Gualco Group, Inc. spoke to the group about the importance of broadband to the Agriculture and Technology Development Roundtable; Bill Higgins of CalCOG gave a brief update of their work and expressed enthusiasm in further collaborating with partners; Susan Lovenburg of CaFWD spoke about the upcoming California Economic Summit in November and affirmed support for the draft Digital Equity for All document; and Sunne Wright McPeak of CETF expressed gratitude to all those present for their work in keeping the conversation going and pushing for continued progress, and to Stephanie Tom especially of the CBC for cultivating strong broadband partnerships and policy support. The event ended at sunset, against the beautiful backdrop of the State Capitol and Downtown Sacramento. It was a fitting conclusion to an afternoon spent recognizing the progress that had been made and, more importantly, gearing up for action in 2020.

SBC Project Next Steps and Issues for Consideration:

Caltrans committed to continue the process of updating and refining the list of strategic corridors, using input from CalCOG on transportation projects, and information from the CPUC on where fiber does or does not exist. Valley Vision will continue to work with CalCOG to facilitate coordination between Consortia across the state and the Rural Transportation Planning Agencies, with the goal of incorporating broadband infrastructure projects into forthcoming transportation projects and fostering “Dig-Once” and “Joint-Use” planning. SBC Project partners will be presenting their work to the California Economic Summit on November 7-8, 2019 to drive the agenda forward.

Valley Vision is working to ensure that urban and rural residents across the Sacramento region and the state have equitable access to information.

Issues that need to be elevated with the state by stakeholders include the role of broadband to achieve innovative mobility solutions for California’s regions; the challenges that Internet service providers face in the variable permitting processes across the Caltrans district offices; and the lack of federal funding for broadband infrastructure projects; among others. Persistent dialogue around these issues is critical, because better broadband infrastructure is indispensable for greater information and access to resources; improving the efficiency of the transportation system; and helping to meet the region’s greenhouse gas emission targets, through reductions in vehicle miles traveled.

Valley Vision’s Continued Work in Broadband:

Valley Vision recognizes that, notwithstanding California’s standing as the fifth largest economy in the world, poor connectivity persists throughout the Capital Region. In addition to its leadership role in the SBC Project, Valley Vision continues to advocate for the region’s connectivity through the management of other endeavors, such as the AgTech Pilot; the School-to-Home project; its policy work with numerous regional partners; and, most recently, working with the CPUC, the Federal Communications Commission, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the challenges that the state and the Regions face concerning eligibility for federal funding programs such as the new USDA ReConnect Program.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!

Isa Avanceña is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting the Board of Directors, and the Innovation & Infrastructure and Leadership and Civic Engagement impact areas.

FCC Chairman Gets a Taste of California’s Digital Divide

Photo credit: Douglas Taylor

In a quest to understand what the Digital Divide looks like from the vantage point of America’s farmers and rural residents, Federal Communications Chairman, Ajit Pai, spent time on the ground last week in the Sacramento region.

Hosted by Valley Vision and the Sacramento Metro Chamber, the Chairman visited agricultural sites in Yolo County and heard first-hand from farmers, business and community leaders about the Divide, literally 10 miles away (as the crow flies) from the state capitol of California – the fifth largest economy in the world. The tour of the region’s rich agricultural areas kicked off Monday morning at the Muller Ranch just outside of the City of Woodland. A group of about 20 regional, state and federal broadband experts and local business and community leaders was graciously hosted by ranch owner Frank Muller. Frank also serves as Chairman of the Board of Pacific Coast Producers and is a Member of the California State Food and Agriculture Board. In addition, his ranch serves as a site for Valley Vision’s Yolo County agricultural technology (AgTech) pilot funded by the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) and in partnership with California State University, Chico.

Frank welcomed the group and gave an overview of ranch operations, his role on State Ag Board and his work with Pacific Coast Producers. Muller Ranch grows diversified crops such as tomatoes, almonds, walnuts, grapes and vegetables on 10,000 acres in several different fields. Chairman Pai, dressed for a day in the fields in jeans and a hoodie, listened intently and engaged in the discussion as members of the group shared their individual stories. Frank gave examples of the impacts of the lack of high-speed internet, or broadband, from two perspectives. From the business side, the lack of broadband coverage in his fields inhibits the use of AgTech that can help farmers manage operations for increased resource efficiency and productivity.

Frank held up two pieces of equipment designed for the purpose of measuring water in the soil. The first, the reliable old tool that pulls a sample of soil that is analyzed for moisture by eye and touch. The second, a rod inserted into the ground with sensors on top that capture measurements for soil moisture and nitrogen level, which along with other data points, are uploaded to ‘the cloud’ for analysis and ability to apply accurate, real-time, prescriptive treatments. The return on investment of such technology is estimated to be 18-19 percent, according to Sunne Wright McPeak, President & CEO of CETF.

Frank described how this type of predictive analysis is the future of farming. The challenge for Frank, however, is access to a reliable broadband signal capable of uploading the information in real-time. Susan Strachan of CSU Chico’s Geographical Information Center, (which conducts broadband mapping for the California Public Utilities Commission), shared an overview of the Yolo County on-farm mobile broadband mapping project of 155 farms that she conducted for the AgTech Pilot and the results of tests on Muller Ranch. This granular mapping of coverage highlights where signals are clearly lacking as compared to higher level coverage maps. These types of tests and mapping help make broadband coverage and availability mapping much more accurate. This is vital for several reasons, including that eligibility for federal and state funding is based on the mapping data. This is the first project of its kind in the country. The Chairman also experienced first-hand the lack of cell phone coverage in Frank’s conference room, underscoring the disadvantage that ag businesses experience on a daily basis.

The second perspective Frank shared with the Chairman related to personal impacts of the lack of broadband. At his grandson’s home, a family with three school-age children who live a half-mile away, only one person at a time can effectively use the Internet at home. Fortunately, for his grandson, he has only to travel a half-mile away to his grandpa’s place to get online and get his homework done. But Frank and many others in community are concerned about those who aren’t quite as fortunate. The impact of the Digital Divide is felt heavily by those without reliable, high-speed internet access at home. How far will this Divide leave them behind in today’s digital economy?

The group then took a quick drive into the City of Woodland to visit AgStart, an innovative AgTech incubator where the group was welcomed by John Selep, President of AgStart; Leanna Sweha, Program Manager, AgStart; and Ken Hiatt, Assistant City Manager, City of Woodland. John provided an overview of the incubator, the programs, and participation in the VINE (Verde Innovation Network, funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration i-6 Innovation grant), a partnership with the University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources. The incubator helps local entrepreneurs grow and thrive in the food and agricultural space; these entrepreneurs provided the ag technologies used for the AgTech Pilot. The potential of innovative AgTech to improve the efficiency and productivity of the food system is exciting and seemingly unlimited. However, even in a state considered a power-house of technology, the lack of adequate broadband coverage, with adequate download and upload speeds to meet today’s business needs – let alone tomorrow’s – is a major barrier. This connectivity is essential not only on-farm but in town. Ken noted that Woodland is home to more than 100 food and ag companies, including processors and R&D – a vital part of the regional economy. Yet an updated map showing broadband grades across region, based on speed, number of providers, cost, and reliability of service, among other factors, had dismal showings for Yolo County.

The final stop for Chairman Pai was Wilson Vineyards in Clarksburg. There, the group was greeted by David Ogilvie, Vineyard Manager, Wilson Vineyards, Director of Production, Muddy Boot Wine and Silt Wine Co. David’s fields are also a site for the AgTech Pilot. David provided a tour of the vineyards and described a new project with soil moisture probes and solar panels.  Similar to Muller Ranch, Wilson Vineyards is also challenged with access to broadband coverage capable of supporting his ambitions for advancing efficiencies through AgTech which are providing a 10-15% improvement. Some of the fields also lack cell phone coverage, stalling real time decision making and management. These challenges have spurred David’s involvement helping to solve the issue. For several years running, and in addition to serving the demands of farming and family, David has been an active leader of the Metro Chamber’s Cap-to-Cap federal advocacy program’s Food & Agriculture Committee. The meetings the Food & Ag team leaders held with the FCC while in Washington DC over the past two years, and the innovative AgTech Pilot, were the catalysts for the Chairman’s visit to Yolo County.

The evening before the field tours, the Chairman participated in a small roundtable discussion with local broadband, food and ag and rural development leaders. The evening included a signature Farm to Fork dining experience at Mulvaney’s B&L. Special thanks to broadband champions Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, and California State Food and Agriculture and California Broadband Councilmember Joy Sterling, for their dedicated commitment to making sure all Californians have true connectivity.

Chairman Pai said he was very impressed by the level of collaboration and partnership shown at each stop along the visit, showcasing the special connectedness of our region across all aspects of the food and ag economy and the community. Valley Vision and the Metro Chamber, in partnership with the FCC, and all the leaders who joined in hosting the FCC Chairman and telling our story, look forward to delivering on our shared mission to close the Digital Divide. Valley Vision manages the CPUC-funded Connected Capital Broadband Consortium. Materials on the AgTech Pilot project, broadband mapping and grades by county and community, and the Yolo County on-farm mapping project can be found on Valley Vision’s website.

Trish Kelly is Managing Director at Valley Vision working on Food & Ag, the 21st Century Workforce and Broadband Access and Adoption.

Leataata Floyd: The Little School Leading the Way

Under the leadership of Principal Eric Chapman and his dedicated team, Leataata Floyd Elementary School (LFE) in Northwest Land Park has been paving an innovative path for Title I schools in the Sacramento City Unified School District. Schools which serve large numbers of economically disadvantaged children such as LFE – whose students reside in the public housing units of Marina Vista/Alder Grove – are eligible for supplemental federal funding under Title I, intended to provide students with a equitable opportunity for a high-quality education. Given the many challenges that such schools face, including families struggling with poverty, racism and isolation and communities and school districts that are chronically under-resourced, students are subjected to persistent and growing disparities in educational and life outcomes.

LFE has made hard-fought progress over the past several years in providing a safe and healthy learning environment for its students, through pioneering the community schools model in our region. Community schools are hubs that bring educators, families and many community partners together to help students and families succeed through a focus on the whole child and creating positive conditions for learning and support for families and communities. Valley Vision has been one of LFE’s partners in delivering the School2Home Program, which is bridging the Digital Divide and Achievement gap through equitable access to technology, as part of an overall neighborhood transformation strategy. This work is supported by the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), which has invested more than $250,000 over the past four years, through a partnership with LFE, the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD), Sacramento County and the City of Sacramento.

On February 7th, Valley Vision, with generous support from the Stuart Foundation, convened a learning and funders forum with LFE, CETF, the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA), and others to showcase LFE as a community school, highlight the need for equity in our educational system, and explore public/private/philanthropic partnership opportunities to advance progress. The moral imperative for this work: we cannot leave our children behind.

The forum brought over 60 community partners, funders, and school district officials to Marina Vista. Mayor Darrell Steinberg,  Councilmember Steve Hansen and SCUSD Trustee Lisa Murawski kicked off the forum with impassioned support for LFE’s efforts and voiced their intentions to champion LFE, the community and the partners – saying they are “all in.” The Mayor noted the intention to ensure that communities such as Marina Vista/Alder Grove are connected to the inclusive growth investments and initiatives through new Measure U funding.

Insights from Stuart Foundation’s Sophie Fanelli and Koua Franz, CETF Board Chair Barbara O’Connor, and SHRA Development Director Tyrone Roderick Williams set the stage for why are investing in LFE and this community. Anna Maier of Learning Policy Institute (LPI) showed how community schools are effective school improvement strategies, emphasizing that LFE is implementing all four of the full-service community school pillars that LPI has identified as foundational in their research.

Special guest, Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade, Associate Professor at San Francisco State University and the founder of Roses in Concrete Community (charter) School shared the story of how he started the school in Oakland and emphasized the need for systemic educational changes that are rooted in love:

Self-love and love of one’s community needs to be the core component of curriculum and a central value for all staff. Community schools are birthed out of necessity to respond to conditions not built on love. Racism, classism and systemic oppression are hateful and violent, and these systems took centuries to build. We have the power to change the conditions in one generation, but we have to start telling the truth about our history.”

He continued by saying, “Equity isn’t a title change, department creation or job promotion type of problem. It requires full commitment from everyone involved to radically change the current outcome.”

His remarks were followed by a powerful panel discussion between Dr. Duncan-AndradePrincipal Eric Chapman, and Superintendent Jorge Aguilar, about poverty, racism, inequity and opportunity, and the promise of community schools and whole child learning. There was agreement that if conditions aren’t right, there will be no learning, and that love for the children must be at the center of all.

LFE is getting many things right and we will build on the momentum generated from the Forum, where partners and funders were already brainstorming about opportunities and strategies to fulfill the community school model at LFE and see how this approach can be brought to scale across the School District and beyond. As a start, the Stuart Foundation, Learning Policy Institute and the Opportunity Institute are providing additional information about partnership-driven funding opportunities that can add resources for community schools and help mitigate institutional funding challenges. Be on the lookout for more news!

The week following the learning and funders forum, Valley Vision and Leataata Floyd Elementary School attended the School2Home Leadership Academy, a three-day conference held by the California Emerging Technologies Fund. The conference organized time for attendees to meet with their congressional representatives and advocate for School2Home, a program that works to close both the Achievement Gap and the Digital Divide in low-performing schools throughout California. Leataata Floyd Elementary and Valley Vision were recognized as leaders for the School2Home/Neighborhood Transformation Plan, whereValley Vision managing director, Trish Kelly, and Principal Eric Chapman shared the outcomes of the learning and funders forum to encourage other School2Home programs in addressing inequities in the education system through whole child education and community partnerships.

Yzabelle Dela Cruz is a Valley Vision Project Associate contributing to the Innovation & Infrastructure and Leadership & Civic Engagement impact areas.

Valley Vision’s Trish Kelly also contributed to the writing of this blog.

What Is the ‘Fix’ for the Capital Region’s Digital Divide?

On January 23, the Sacramento Public Library along with Valley Vision and the City of Sacramento Office of Innovation and Economic Development, co-hosted many state, regional, and local partners at the beautiful Tsakopoulos Library Galleria for the region’s first ever Digital Inclusion Summit. The purpose was to define digital equity for the Sacramento Region, identify barriers that lead to the Digital Divide, and create meaningful measurement tools. The Summit included a keynote speaker, lightning talks from 13 presenters, and group goal-setting for regional next steps.

We kicked off with Alex Bahn, Digital Equity Manager of San Francisco’s Office of Digital Equity, sharing the steps and takeaways from the San Francisco Digital Equity Playbook. The Playbook, a pilot program produced by his office, was intended for agencies serving the most vulnerable populations at risk of being digitally excluded. The office conducted focus groups and interviews at housing and workforce centers which identified barriers around digital technology adoption: feeling embarrassed, time constraints, affordability, fear of technology, language barriers, disabilities, and lack of access. By identifying the barriers, Alex and his team were able to create a playbook of resources for populations to overcome being digitally excluded in a world of increasing digitization. The more surprising takeaway (given proximity to the Silicon Valley) was the comparison of San Francisco to Sacramento in our current status in addressing digital inclusion, and our need for greater collaboration to bridge the digital gap.

Next up, 13 lightning talks from organizations across the region working to advance digital inclusion. Speakers provided key information about their efforts in the continuum goal of closing the digital divide:

  • Jared Amalong – Sacramento County Office of Education: Equity in K-12 Computer Science Education;
  • Julius Austin – Sacramento Promise Zone/SHRA: Sacramento Promise Zone – Collaboration;
  • Patrick Becknell – Mutual Housing California: Digital literacy inclusion and access in affordable housing;
  • Erika Bjork – Sacramento Metro Chamber: Trends in digital skills workforce in the region;
  • Markus Geissler – Deputy Sector Navigator of ICT-Digital Media for the Sacramento region: Beyond Computer Science: Explore all ICT Disciplines;
  • Navneet Grewel – Yellow Circle: Cybersecurity learning platform;
  • Kandace Knudson – Sacramento City College: What it looks like to support access to academic technology (our student technology help desk);
  • Cameron Law – Social Venture Partners of Sacramento: Aligning Funding toward digital inclusion/literacy;
  • Azizi Penn – YouthArtCode: My experience with the summer program YouthArtCode;
  • Stephanie Tom – California Department of Technology: Statewide Broadband efforts; state and local collaboration; private/public partnerships;
  • Harsh Verma – ACM Sacramento Chapter: ACM for Education and Future Worlds Symposium;
  • Alan Ware – AMW Design: Education strategies for underrepresented youth and other populations;
  • Andrea Willis – Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE): USA Learns, a website that teaches ESL and helps prepare for U.S. citizenship.

The presentations were followed by goal setting led by Valley Vision. Breaking out into groups, the insight and ideas generated from each table were amazing! The following regional priorities were identified:

  1. Bring Community Together: Map regional gaps in digital inclusion. Create partnerships across sectors to connect community.
  2. Access and Competency of Use (Technical Skills)Acquire tech and computing resources, and the competency to use them.
  1. Affordability of Universal Access to the Community (Broadband)
  2. Asset MapCreate a database that serves as an asset map for a Regional Digital Literacy Initiative.

Attendees then signed up for working groups that will tackle these priorities. We are excited to push forward with these collaborative efforts to bridge the Digital Divide in the Sacramento region.

To know more about digital skills and our efforts with digital inclusion, please email Sonia Duenas, or subscribe to Valley Vision’s Vantage Point email newsletter.

Sonia Duenas is a Valley Vision Project Associate contributing to the 21st Century Workforce and Leadership & Civic Engagement impact areas.

Our People-Centered Digital Future

On Monday, December 10, Valley Vision had the honor of joining an historic event with key Internet pioneers (pictured above are Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, and Vint Cerf, known as Father of the Internet), the People-Centered Internet coalition, and the next generation of positive change agents in a discussion of Our Shared Digital Future. Valley Vision joined the ranks of “The Brain Trust of Pioneers, Change Agents, And Agents of Courage” attending the conference at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, California. The event was also lived streamed on YouTube in order for a global audience to participate.

Dubbed Our People-Centered Digital Future, the conference coincided with the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and an announcement by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) that 50-percent of the global population is now connected to the Internet. Announced at the event was the release of the World Economic Forum Paper: Our Shared Digital FutureAuthored by leaders from business, government, academic, and civil society, the paper stresses an urgent need for collaboration in order to shape a digital future that is beneficial for all. It defines a set of shared goals for action in the digital space and calls on global leaders to take action in shaping our digital future.

The six shared goals highlight what is needed in order to achieve an inclusive, trustworthy and sustainable digital future and provide a common framework across goals:

  1. Leave no person behind: ensuring high-quality internet access and adoption for all
  2. Empower users through good digital identities: ensuring that everyone can participate in the digital society through identity and access mechanisms that empower the user
  3. Make business work for people: helping companies navigate digital disruption and evolve to new responsible business models and practices
  4. Keep everyone safe and secure: shaping norms and practices that enable a technology-dependent environment that is secure and resilient
  5. Build new rules for a new game: developing new flexible, outcome based and participatory governance mechanisms to complement traditional policy and regulation
  6. Break through the data barrier: developing innovations that allow us to benefit from data while protecting the legitimate interests of all stakeholders

Valley Vision’s impact areas and work efforts intersect with several of these shared goals. Since 2009, Valley Vision has been working to close the Digital Divide and expand broadband access and adoption. In a world where information, education, jobs, healthcare, and other services are increasingly being accessed digitally, we risk allowing people who are disconnected from the Internet to fall further behind in the opportunity divide. Through our Connected Community Initiative, we aim to close this divide and provide equitable Internet access across the region.

Moreover, regional leaders, including the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, the Metro Chamber, the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, and Valley Vision, are collaborating to implement a Regional Prosperity Strategy centered on an inclusive economy. The strategy is based on research from Brookings, and helps chart a course to the Sacramento region’s future economic prosperity. A major imperative for equitable prosperity is investment in digital skills training. The region needs enhanced digital skills both to grow the pool of high-skill technical workers and to expand the number of workers that have basic digital literacy. Digital skills are needed both for well-trained computer and information technology professionals such as software developers and engineers; and in order for entry-level employees to meet basic job requirements for digital software like Excel and other programs.

Over the past year, Valley Vision has been leading a regional conversation around the Future of Work and how automation, digitalization, and the disruption created by technological advances will impact jobs and the region’s workforce. As a workforce intermediary, Valley Vision is partnering with educators and employers to assess current and anticipated future skills gaps and to deliver on an action plan to build a robust pipeline of qualified workers across multiple career education sectors including Information Communications Technologies (ICT); Advanced Manufacturing; Energy, Construction and Utilities; Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Water Technologies; and Health and Life Sciences.

Prescient for the Future of Work, it’s important to note that today ICT and Digital Media are integrated into almost every technology, industry and job. As noted in the Brookings report, close to three-quarters of occupations in the region now require high or medium levels of digital skills. Whereas 49-percent of middle skill jobs required medium or high levels of digital literacy 15-years ago, 87-percent of today’s jobs require these skills.

As we pursue the goal of getting the remaining 50-percent of the world’s population online, there is a great need for collaboration and urgent action to shape a digital future that is beneficial for all. Valley Vision looks forward to the continuing the advancement of this work and in securing an equitable digital future.

Tammy Cronin is a Valley Vision Project Leader working on the 21st Century Workforce and Broadband Access and Adoption.

Valley Vision Goes Back to School

It’s that time of year again, as summer comes to an end and leaves start to turn familiar colors of brown and red, that excited parents and eager children return through the front doors of their elementary school for “Back to School Night.”

Valley Vision was excited to participate in Back to School Night at both Martin Luther King, Jr. Technology Academy and Leataata Floyd Elementary School as they welcomed  their students back for a new academic year. Students and parents learned about programs and events happening at the schools, and were also able to meet and interact with teachers and staff. There were plenty of games and activities for everyone as both schools actively showcased what makes their institution special. Martin Luther King Jr. Technology Academy was especially lucky to have both Senator Richard Pan and Assemblymember Kevin McCarty as part of the welcoming committee. Both elected officials gave welcoming speeches and announced each student would receive a free backpack for attending the evening’s event.  While Valley Vision was at Leataata Floyd Elementary School, project associate Emma Koefoed interacted with parents to collect data on Internet accessibility as a way to gauge how families are responding to the low-cost Internet programs. As a thank you, Valley Vision was excited to give away $25 dollar gift cards to four lucky winners who participated in the survey.

As part of our Connected Communities Initiative, Valley Vision, in partnership with services providers such as AT&T and Comcast, has been working to help provide information on low-cost Internet services that are currently available to families in low-income neighborhoods, including the communities near Leataata Floyd Elementary School and Martin Luther King, Jr. Technology Academy. By meeting certain requirements such as having a child in the SNAP/CalFresh program, be a recipient of SSI, or a HUD Housing residents, can qualify a home for Internet connectivity at speeds up to 10 megabits per second, for $10 per month.

Access to the Internet is an economic gateway, providing life-altering opportunities for people of all ages. In 2015, Wired Magazine quoted a study by Pew Research that found “15 percent of Americans don’t have access to the Internet at all, most notably senior citizens, adults without a high school education, and low-income families.” In 2016, the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) found that although Internet connectivity had increased overall for California households, mostly due to increased use of smartphones, “lower-income Californians remain less likely to have access.” CETF found that only 68 percent of people who make less than $22,000 annually reported being able to get online at home.

Being able to access the Internet means many things. For students, it provides a chance to perform research relating to school work, obtain higher education, access online tutoring tools, and boosts their capacity for learning and educational attainment. Availability of low-cost Internet solutions provides opportunities for parents and guardians as well who are part of that 68% of low-income Californias without access to the internet. With reliable any-time Internet access at home and not having to depend on public libraries, employment offices, or local restaurants for free WiFi the chance for social and economic mobility become possible.  At Valley Vision, we will continue our work to close the digital divide in the Sacramento region, and we invite you to get involved!

To learn more about AT&T ACCESS click here. To learn more about Comcast Essentials click here. To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!

Emma Koefoed is a Valley Vision Project Associate contributing to the 21st Century Workforce and Healthy Communities impact areas. 

Making Moves to Close the Digital Divide

The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) has awarded a $25,000 grant to Valley Vision to manage implementation of the School2Home digital literacy program at Leataata Floyd Elementary School (LFE) in Sacramento during the 2017-18 academic year. This will be the third year that CETF and Valley Vision have supported LFE leadership with program implementation on-site. This year, LFE is expanding School2Home schoolwide, training all teachers and staff on effective integration of technology into their classrooms, and reaching about 350 students and families, up from 66 students just last year. With the expansion of the program, every child at LFE will have access to a laptop and other digital tools every day to support and augment their learning.

Leataata Floyd Elementary School serves the two neighboring public housing communities – Marina Vista and Alder Grove – where nearly half of residents do not have access to high-speed home Internet or digital tools. In addition to monitoring implementation of School2Home’s core components, Valley Vision plans to facilitate parent engagement workshops throughout the year focused on digital literacy and student success, aiming to expand digital access and inclusion within the neighborhood. Valley Vision and LFE leadership trained 40 parents in 2016-17 and are hoping to reach an even greater number this year.

Over the last year, Valley Vision has also continued to work with the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA) as a planning partner on Jobs Plus, a four-year initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to support employment readiness among residents of public housing communities. Valley Vision’s goal, through management of both School2Home and the Connected Capital Broadband Consortium, is to help equip residents of Marina Vista and Alder Grove with the 21st Century skills needed to be successful in the digital age. Without access to broadband, residents of these communities will be less able to compete with their digitally connected peers. Moreover, despite proximity to the downtown area of our State’s capital city, many of the families with children at Leataata Floyd Elementary School are unable to access critical information, resources and services that most of us rely on every single day.

CETF has also awarded a $10,000 grant to Hacker Lab to provide technology skill development opportunities to parents with children at Leataata Floyd Elementary School and the surrounding community. Valley Vision and Hacker Lab are working collaboratively to maximize impact of the awarded grants. Both Valley Vision and Hacker Lab will be participating in an October 4th resource fair hosted by SHRA to outreach to residents on low-cost home Internet programs as well as the new resources and opportunities coming into the school and community.


Jenny Wagner was a Valley Vision Project Associate working on School2Home, the Cleaner Air Partnership, and other Healthy Communities-related initiatives.