On Friday, the Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion hosted a panel discussion on digital equity in the community.
The panel discussion, called “Equity and Infrastructure: A Discussion on the State of Digital Inclusion in KC," brought in several organizations throughout the region to discuss the digital divide issues.
“The digital divide is a constantly moving target,” Assistant City Manager Rick Usher said. “Just the life cycle of technology is so fast that we're finding ways to keep up with that, but we know today that most people are accessing it on their smartphone. So we're also, through this plan, trying to develop and work with app developers to make the internet more accessible through mobile phones and mobile apps.”
Earlier this year, community meetings were held, hearing from residents on how to implement the city’s digital equity plan.
“We took that information, we learned from the community meetings and then we drafted that into our digital equity strategic plan and then we introduced that to the city council back in April through a couple of public hearings through the neighborhood,” Usher said. “Now we're proceeding on implementation, so one thing we've taken advantage of is through the Hire KC Youth program, we're bringing two interns in. We're going to call them digital scholars and they'll be with us for 8 weeks and they're going to help us research community learning centers that exist in Kansas City right now.”
Usher said they’re trying to develop a map that’ll show where students in the KC school district can get access to public computers.
“The goal is to have them within a three to five block walk of the home so if the kid doesn't have access at home, they can have access at one of these community learning centers,” Usher said. “We're also looking at through this digital equity plan, helping people find online employment, helping people be job creators and entrepreneurs themselves.”
As panelists discuss future digital efforts, KC resident Sheridin Jones said digital equity and literacy is not a luxury, but now a lifestyle.
“Everything you do today,” Jones said. “It's the norm now. Maybe 10 years ago, 20 years ago it wasn't but now and five years from now, we're going to be solely dependent on the internet, so it doesn’t matter who you are. No matter what economic background you come from, you're going to need the internet.”
MIS Technician for the Housing Authority of Kansas City Kelvin Patterson said one of the biggest challenges now is getting awareness out there and letting people know of the services available.
“We just need to ensure that we provide as many ways as possible that families are empowered with everything that they need,” Patterson said. “If we don't provide access to them, then they're left behind and we want to make sure no one's left behind.”
Digital equity leaders said they will continue to formulate goals and bring even more organizations on board to close the digital divide.
There are a number of different services, technology classes, and computer training throughout the city. For more information, click here.