The Digital Divide
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended daily life in Greater Boston and around the world. Thousands of people can’t report to work, and millions are being told to cease nonessential travel. Never before has the internet been so essential for working remotely and staying connected.
Ensuring universal digital access via computing devices, digital literacy trainings, and reliable, fast internet infrastructure is essential to closing the “Digital Divide” -- the gap between those with access to the reliable internet essential to navigating everyday tasks like job searches, homework, and digital communications; and those who don’t.
Across the Commonwealth, communities are looking to make investments in the infrastructure, equipment, and training that can increase quality access to the internet. MAPC believes that municipalities, in collaboration with community stakeholders, can play a leading role in ensuring internet access and connectivity for families, students, seniors, and other individuals who need to use digital resources in new ways.
The issue of internet access is a function of three critical access elements:
MAPC proposes a three-step approach to tackling municipal digital divide issues:
Digital Community Needs Assessment
Identify specific barriers that individuals and households face in a community.
Partnership and Program Development
Once the critical missing access elements have been identified, assemble the right stakeholders to address those issues. These stakeholders will likely include those who can provide community connections (such as community organizations, health care providers, and housing authorities), digital services and equipment providers (such as libraries, schools, and nonprofits specializing in digital access), and access providers and maintenance workers (such as internet service providers, IT support providers, and workforce training programs).
Technology Evaluation and Procurements
Evaluate the existing and needed infrastructure to improve connectivity. Usecomponents of existing internet infrastructure, such as dark fiber lines and carrier hotels, to provide direction on how to improve connectivity for residents and businesses.