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Digital Inclusion refers to the activities necessary to ensure that all individuals and communities have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Digital inclusion requires intentional strategies and investments to reduce and eliminate historical, institutional and structural barriers to access and use technology.
Rural LISC believes that digital inclusion in a resilient rural community must include:
1) Adequate broadband internet connections.
2) Internet-enabled devices and equipment that meet the needs of the user.
3) Access to digital literacy training and technical support.
Access to these three facets of digital inclusion is critical to fostering resilient rural communities. Historically, focus on “digital” has been on infrastructure and how to get digital cable laid in the ground in more communities.
However, putting the infrastructure in place alone doesn’t solve the problem if there is no last-mile-service (internet to the home); if the service is cost prohibitive; if individuals don’t have devices; and if individuals don’t know how to connect their device or use their digital tools.
All individuals and communities deserve the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy and economy. As our world is becoming increasingly digitized it is necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services. Without digital access, individuals, families, and communities are all being left behind.
Rural LISC is working to identify broadband coverage gaps across the county by using custom data collecting tools such as the TestIT app. Collecting accurate data is an important first step in increasing broadband connection among households, businesses, and community organizations in areas without connectivity. We’re pursuing strategies and methods of connection that leverage existing infrastructure to benefit the greatest number of residents possible, such as within affordable housing developments or along commercial corridors. These are medium term strategies, intended to help communities to bridge to the long term solution of fiber to the home.
Leveraging our network of community based partners, we are connecting households, businesses, and community organizations with affordable tablets or laptops to support telehealth, remote learning, working, and the necessities of everyday life.
A Digital Navigator provides individualized or small group assistance to community members who need affordable home internet service, affordable internet-capable devices, and/or to learn introductory digital skills in order to become effective home internet users. Digital Navigator are connectors and coaches, and typically already work in roles involving case management or other client facing services. This assistance is often provided by voice telephone but may also include safe in-person visits, email, text, video chat, and other communication methods that work for the learner.