Region meets all seven criteria to earn award alongside 22 other U.S. municipalities
Chattanooga and Hamilton County earned the 2023 Visionary Digital Inclusion Trailblazer Award from the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. The community has won the distinction four years in a row, recognizing a continued commitment to digital literacy leadership and expanded access for all residents.
According to NDIA, “The places selected as Trailblazers provide models to aspire to, demonstrating how local governments can support their own digital inclusion ecosystems.”
Driven by innovative partners like Hamilton County Schools and the Chattanooga Public Library, as well as model initiatives like Tech Goes Home CHA; HCS EdConnect, powered by EPB; EMPACT and other local initiatives that prioritize access to wi-fi, affordable devices and resources to help residents improve quality of life, the Visionary Trailblazer Award recognizes Chattanooga and Hamilton County “as leading the way in digital inclusion innovation”.
To earn the title, municipalities have to earn a minimum of five points to qualify as a Trailblazer, and eighteen to earn the Visionary designation. Chattanooga-Hamilton County met that highest bar, alongside 22 other communities across the country, including Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Denver, CO; Portland, OR; and Nashville and Davidson County, TN.
“As residents of Chattanooga and Hamilton County we can be proud of the impact our digital inclusion efforts have had in our community,” said The Enterprise Center CEO Deb Socia. “This award is a testament to the commitment of our elected leaders and the hard work of many partners and community members who understand how critical it is to be connected.”
Trailblazers are judged based on criteria showing a city or county’s digital inclusion leadership, and cities have been vying for a place on the list since the honor was re-launched in 2020 with open applications.
HCS EdConnect, powered by EPB, a partnership between the city, county, Hamilton County Schools, EPB and The Enterprise Center that provides high speed broadband service to more than 17,000 HCS students and their families, was a key component to receiving the Trailblazer distinction. Tech Goes Home, another program of The Enterprise Center that provides digital skills training across the region, celebrated a milestone of 10,000 graduates earlier this year.
“Whether a household’s needs are school resources, telehealth appointments, or to just be able to access news and family members far away, our community is strengthened when we can keep people connected,” Socia said.
Communities will be formally recognized at NDIA’s annual Net Inclusion conference, held February 13-15.