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Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Officials Push to Close Digital Divide

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said this week that they want to close the region's digital divide within the next five years, calling special attention to racial disparities in service.

(TNS) — Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said Tuesday they want to close the region's digital divide within five years, increasing access to the Internet and other technology for those who don't have it now.

"While Pittsburgh in general has a very high digital quotient, there are many people left behind," Fitzgerald said.

About 30% of the region's senior citizens do not have broadband access, and about 30% of households making under $20,000 a year also lack Internet access in their homes, Gainey said.

"Far too long we have known the truth about the digital divide — that our seniors, our Black and brown children have been left behind," he said, calling the gap "unacceptable."

The Pittsburgh Digital Equity Coalition will work to ensure that everyone in the county has access to affordable, high-speed Internet, digital literacy programming, technological assistance and affordable technology, said Heidi Norma, director of Pittsburgh's Department of Innovation and Performance.

Norman said she has been working over the past nine months to explore what needs to be done to "close the digital divide across the county once and for all."

The coalition will craft a plan over the next six months to determine what steps to take.

The plan likely will include digital literacy assistance and financial help to ensure people can afford necessary technology, Fitzgerald said. Federal funding will be available through President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan, he said. Officials could not estimate how much money would be invested into the initiative.

Coalition partners include Pittsburgh Public Schools, the Allegheny County Housing Authority, the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, Neighborhood Allies, Literacy Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Regional Transit, the University of Pittsburgh, Meta Mesh Wireless Communities, the Greater Pittsburgh Digital Inclusion Alliance, Computer Reach, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and A+ Schools.

The Pittsburgh Digital Equity Coalition plans to publish its five-year plan by the mid-2023.

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