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

By Sonia Dueñas

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.