In 2020, a year which has highlighted the depth of our nation’s digital divide, Digital Inclusion Week held special significance. Held annually in October – this year, October 5-9 – the internationally celebrated week aims to raise awareness of solutions addressing home internet access, personal devices, and local technology training and support programs.
Supported by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, which represents more than 450 partners in 44 states working toward digital equity, this year’s theme focused on why we need #digitalequityNOW. Affiliates around the country hosted internet access events, device donation drives, and resume rallies.
Sammy Lowdermilk, Program Director for Tech Goes Home Chattanooga, served on the national planning committee: “Digital Inclusion Week aims to highlight the digital divide as well as solutions addressing the lack of access to sufficient broadband, access to personal devices, and the knowledge of how to leverage both to stay on pace with a rapidly-moving economy.” Tech Goes Home also hosted a number of digital workshops during the week: How to Use ClassLink and Power School; Improving Your Resume; How to Make the Most of Zoom; Resources in the Innovation District; and Becoming a Chromebook Expert.
Elected leaders, including Mayors Andy Berke and Jim Coppinger, also took to social media to share what makes digital access efforts so essential for our communities. “We need #digitalequityNOW. Digital equity connects people to jobs, resources, education, and affects the quality of life,” said Mayor Berke on Twitter. Mayor Coppinger further highlighted our local response: “Digital Inclusion is essential for every family and student to succeed. That’s why Hamilton County has invested in programs like Tech Goes Home as well as HCS EdConnect powered by EPB.”
Another key element of Chattanooga’s digital inclusion efforts continues to be the Digital Equity Committee, launched six years ago. Though the group started with just a small group of core members, it has developed into an important forum for collaboration and partnership – especially as the community united around a response to COVID-19.
“As someone who is constantly connected, it is easy to forget that this challenge exists for so many of our community members,” said Rachel Emond, Family Resource Center Director and Rock Point Outreach Facilitator for Hamilton County Schools. “Being a part of this group has helped keep digital equity and inclusion at the forefront of my mind during the day-to-day work I do on family and community engagement for Hamilton County Schools.”
And while Digital Inclusion Week may have concluded, the work continues. Interested in getting more involved? The Digital Equity Committee is open to all – firstname.lastname@example.org – or consider supporting a digital inclusion initiative like Tech Goes Home or HCS EdConnect.
Below is a 2020 National Digital Inclusion Week video from The Enterprise Center team.