Did you know 70% of children in the Kansas City School District do not have Internet access at home?
That’s one statistic the Kansas City Public Library is working hard to change. They have launched the Digital Inclusion Coalition – regional nonprofit, government and businesses leaders whose goal is to increase Internet connectivity and digital literacy in Kansas City. As the central community organizer, the Kansas City Public Library brought the group together this fall for the first time, hosting their kickoff at the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Summit sponsored by, among others, Google Fiber.
The daylong Summit united government, educational, nonprofit and technology leaders and activists from around the region to tackle the digital divide problem head on. Facilitated discussions examined trends, discussed challenges and opportunities, spotlighted current inclusion efforts and the exchange of best practices.
“We are dedicated to increasing information access to empower our community,” said Deputy Executive Director, Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner. “Due to our mission, the Library is a natural leader of this coalition. By working collaboratively with our schools, city and non-profits, we can more efficiently increase digital skills and access to the Internet. We have big ideas and intend to make a big impact in Kansas City.
Awareness building was the summit’s top priority and from what we saw, it was a total success. Mobile Beacon attended along with over 200 others, including members of the press, elected officials, Internet providers, educators, non-profits, and some local residents who belong to the 17% of Kansas City in the digital divide. It was a well-organized day that was rich in content, offering an abundance of workshops and panels.
We also want to congratulate Flo Dean, the winner of our raffle at the summit. She won a free Wi-Fi hotspot device and a free one year service contract. She’s super-excited as she’s never even had an email account before.
We participated on a panel with representatives from Google, Time Warner and Comcast, addressing Low Cost and Affordable Broadband Options in the Community. We discussed plans to introduce high-speed connectivity at an affordable rate, providing a platform for nonprofits to offer service to their constituents, support community outreach efforts already underway, and how to best move forward.
As a new member of the Digital Inclusion Committee, we’re excited to be part of the solution, working with the library on a plan for loaner hotspots for disadvantaged families. We also look forward to working closely with other Kansas City nonprofit partners to further expand digital inclusion efforts throughout the community. We feel one of our local partners, Connecting for Good’s president, Michael Liimatta, said it best: “You cannot close the Digital Divide digitally.”
The Kansas City Digital Inclusion Coalition will reconvene on January 16, 2016 for their Digital Inclusion Town Hall. This town hall meeting will feature an announcement of the 2014 Digital Summit’s final report, a new a digital inclusion coalition and a presentation of an action plan.
We’ll be sure to report back on the impressive digital inclusion developments within this community.
What do you think? Are you ready to launch a Digital Inclusion Alliance in your own city?