Director of Digital Inclusion, Detroit
Joshua Edmonds works to implement digital equity strategies in a city where more than 100,000 residents, almost one-third of the population, lack fixed broadband access in their homes. He has been Detroit’s director of digital inclusion for two years, making him one of the longest-serving full-time digital inclusion municipal staffers in any city hall in the country. Edmonds’ work, however, has perhaps never been as relevant as it was in 2020 following the outbreak of COVID-19.
As is the case for most local gov digital inclusion advocates, one of Edmonds’ primary roles is facilitating relationships and coordinating partnerships between public agencies, private-sector companies and adjacent community groups. Edmonds told Government Technology last year that the pandemic had exacerbated existing digital equity challenges in the community, challenges such as public school students lacking Internet access, devices to use the Internet and skills to use the Internet in meaningful ways. Amid the pandemic, Edmonds was inundated with calls from community stakeholders wanting to help.
This manifested in a number of ways in Detroit throughout the year. One prominent act of digital inclusion came in April. Detroit announced a $23 million digital inclusion investment aimed primarily at helping more students in the city access technology and the Internet. The donation was made by a coalition of the city’s leading business and philanthropic groups. Simply put, that kind of swift digital equity action likely doesn’t happen in a moment of crisis if a city doesn’t have a clear digital inclusion advocate in city hall to facilitate the work.
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