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Platform Tracks Digital Inclusion Efforts Amid COVID-19

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance is keeping an online running tally of the actions that state and local governmental organizations are deploying to keep their constituents connected during the crisis.

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) has created a pair of trackers to gauge governmental actions in support of digital equity during the COVID-19 crisis.

The group, which is a national nonprofit organization that advocates for digital inclusion issues such as broadband access, created one tracker for state actions and another for local actions. The lists include crisis work that stands in addition to the Federal Communications Commission’s Keep America Connected Pledge. They are split into three categories: Internet access, device access and tech support.

Digital inclusion has become a topic of much discussion as the COVID-19 crisis has forced vital services such as education and health care to be provided online while people shelter in their homes. One of the central ideas behind the trackers is, as the site itself puts it, “documenting local government initiatives to encourage other local governments to address access to the Internet (particularly at home), personal computers and tablets, and tech assistance.” 

NDIA Executive Director Angela Siefer, when reached via email, noted that “being digitally connected during this pandemic is an absolute necessity.” She also called the states and local government agencies taking action “problem solvers” and said the NDIA wants to life-up this work to encourage more innovation in the space.

Work appearing on the list is varied, ranging from Philadelphia creating an online list of low-cost Internet options to the California Public Utilities Commission mandating the nixing of data caps and overcharge fees by Internet service providers. 

Advocates for digital inclusion work, including Siefer, have recently told Government Technology that the crisis has created such tangible evidence of why entire communities need Internet access at home, that they are optimistic reinvigorated efforts for digital inclusion will take hold during and after the pandemic at the state and local gov levels

Some communities have already seen landmark progress as a direct result of the challenges brought by COVID-19 and resultant shelter-in-place orders. Detroit, for example, was able to get a $23 million multi-sector digital inclusion investment aimed primarily at getting devices and home Internet service for every public school student in the city.

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.