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What’s New in Civic Tech: Device Access for Every American Act

Plus, the U.S. Census Bureau makes its 2020 count data related to redistricting available in an easier to read format, a Los Angeles digital equity program offers a new IT certificate, and more.

senate congress
A U.S. senator has introduced new legislation entitled the Device Access for Every American Act, which aims to help all Americans obtain and use digital devices in order to participate in our increasingly digital society.

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., introduced the legislation to the Senate this week, while Rep. A. Donald McEachin, D-Va., introduced it in the House. What the act aims to do is authorize the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create a program that would enable them to give $400 vouchers to Americans in need so that they can buy laptops, tablets, computers or other devices.

Other details for the Device Access for Every American Act would include allocating $5 billion in federal funding for the aforementioned voucher program, permitting as many as two low-income individuals per house to get those vouchers, and would direct the FCC to team up with retailers to promote the program.

While being introduced in both chambers of Congress is a necessary first step, the legislation has a long road to go, pending approval. It has, however, been endorsed and praised by several digital equity organizations, including the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, which works with local government, civic tech groups and others at the state or local level in the space.

Those interested in learning more about the Device Access for Every American Act can read a one-pager about the bill as well as the full bill text now. (Zack Quaintance)

THE U.S. CENSUS BUREAU MAKES 2020 REDISTRICTING DATA EASIER TO READ


The U.S. Census Bureau has now made redistricting data available in an easier-to-use format, the Bureau has announced.

Topics within this data include local-level results from the 2020 Census population count, broken down by race, Hispanic origin, age for those old enough to vote and housing unit data.

It’s all available within the 2020 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File, which is on the Census website now. It’s all identical to the data that was first released on Aug. 12, save for being in a format that’s easier to parse.

The data was also released directly to states, in a toolkit of DVDs and flash drives that have integrated software for browsing as it applies to redrawing congressional district borders — both at the national and state levels.

“We are excited to be able to provide these data to the public in a format that’s easier to use,” said Acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin in a press release.

This is all relevant for civic tech folks, because the Census data is the bedrock data set for districting and will serve as such for the next 10 years. While redistricting is just one purpose that the data is used for, it is among the most significant for government functions, right up there with financial allocations. (Zack Quaintance)

YOUNG PEOPLE CAN EARN IT CERTIFICATE THROUGH L.A. DIGITAL EQUITY PROGRAM


Delete the Divide — which is Los Angeles County’s excellently named digital equity initiative — is working to help 1,000 young people in that jurisdiction earn professional IT certificates.

To do so, the program will be offering certificate programs by teaming up with Google and Facebook, all at no cost to those participating with no existing degree or prior experience required. The programs will be the Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate; the Google IT Support Professional Certificate; the Google Project Management Certificate; the Google UX Design Certificate; and the Facebook Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate.

The goal of the program is to help young people obtain job-ready skills to be able to enter high-growth fields within three to six months of starting work on the programs. Once they have obtained the certificates, the participants will have the chance to apply for jobs at tech companies, with Google and Facebook being among them.

Participation will be available to young adults ages 12 to 24 from communities wherein 20.1 percent to 100 percent of households lack access to the Internet.

Interested parties can find more info on the Delete the Divide website. (Zack Quaintance)

TOOLKIT OFFERS DIGITAL SKILLS BLUEPRINT FOR LIBRARIES


The Digital Navigators Toolkit, which was developed by the Salt Lake City Public Library (SLCPL), is now available. Libraries can use this toolkit to help community members with limited Internet access or computer experience.

It was created as a result of a partnership between the Urban Libraries Council, SLCPL and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance. This partnership supported a 10-month pilot of the model in Salt Lake City. The pilot, which began in fall of 2020, supported 585 community members in under-resourced areas.

Announced last week, the toolkit includes resources to help libraries meet community needs and assess progress. It can be found at urbanlibraries.org. (Julia Edinger)

NEW YORK RELEASES BROADBAND CHALLENGES REPORT


New York has released a report that details broadband access and challenges in the state. The report notes that more than one million households in the state — or 13.8 percent — do not have access to home broadband services.

The report also notes that predominantly rural areas are underserved in terms of broadband infrastructure. Also, 1 in 3 households with income less than $20,000 lacked broadband access in their home. The speed of Internet access is also a noteworthy item in this report, as only 13.5 percent had access to broadband at speeds of 250/25 Mbps in 2019.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli urged the state to craft a strategy that would leverage federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and funds from the much-discussed infrastructure bill. He recommended that the strategy accelerate availability of high-speed connections, enhance access for low-income households and improve affordability overall. (Julia Edinger)   
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.