Broadband and Digital Equity Advocate, Boston
Anne Schwieger is Boston’s broadband and digital equity advocate, based in the city’s Department of Innovation and Technology. Her overarching goal is, as the city describes it, to “make broadband work better for everyone.” In a more specific sense, however, she is a voice for digital equity and inclusion, and she works on related issues across teams throughout Boston’s government.
Since Schwieger stepped into her role four years ago, a growing number of cities have added similar posts, but Schwieger was one of the first in local government anywhere in the country to be assigned exclusively to full-time broadband and digital equity advocacy. While being a trailblazer is, of course, laudable, it’s actually the robust digital equity and related work that continues to develop in Boston that is most notable. During Schwieger’s time there, there has been considerable buy-in for digital equity work at all levels of the local government. Boston has made sustained progress toward fostering digital inclusion — from grant-making to encouraging competitive broadband rates — while other cities of similar size are just now embracing this as a responsibility
One of the first cities in the country to have a broadband and digital equity advocate, @CityOfBoston’s @AnneSchwieger works to get all city staff to think about broadband as an element of every city project
This buy-in has created a digital inclusion environment in Boston that places it in the vanguard of the movement nationwide. Of particular note is the city’s Digital Equity Fund, essentially a round of annual grant-making that supports digital equity projects, with an emphasis on groups that have deep roots in the community and thus a greater reach than the city might have on its own. This program was launched in 2017, and it has proven so successful that during this past year it nearly tripled in size, growing from $35,000 to $100,000 of city funding. Schwieger and her colleagues in the tech and innovation ecosystem in Boston City Hall have built a strong foundation for digital inclusion progress in the years to come.