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Will Smart Cities and IoT Divide Us or Bring Us Together?

Screenshot-2018-1-18 Will the internet be a tool to divide us or bring us together

Government is transforming applications, contracts, and payment portals to all be housed online. This is incredible, but only if you have all three legs of the stool — the internet in your home, a computer beyond a smart phone, and the digital literacy training to help you use these tools to access the resources needed. As Pittsburgh develops as a technology city we have a choice to make; will technology be something that creates a larger divide, or will we put in the necessary work to make it a portal to increase equity?

In 2016, in collaboration with the Sprout Fund and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, & mathematics) youth service providers, the City of Pittsburgh piloted Rec2Tech — an opportunity to convert five recreations centers for one week into technology centers. This work kicked off my government career as a Civic Innovation Specialist working to leverage Pittsburgh’s recreation centers for technology education opportunities (Your Recreation Center should be your new Co-working Space). The project created a greater awareness of the number of individuals who do not have access to technology education or in-home internet access across the city.

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance performed a report based on the 2015 American Community Survey and found Pittsburgh to be the 84th worst connected city, with 30.1% of the city population without a fixed in-home broadband subscription, equating to over 39,000 households. The 2016 American Community Survey cites Pennsylvania as a state where 19.5% of household do not have internet access. That means roughly 2.5 million people cannot apply for jobs once the library or local coffee shop closes or can only do their homework on a smartphone. In many ways the internet provides tools that could increase equity, however, the gap only expands if internet access and digital literacy are not present.

Government is transforming applications, contracts, and payment portals to all be housed online. This is incredible, but only if you have all three legs of the stool — the internet in your home, a computer beyond a smart phone, and the digital literacy training to help you use these tools to access the resources needed. As Pittsburgh develops as a technology city we have a choice to make; will technology be something that creates a larger divide, or will we put in the necessary work to make it a portal to increase equity?

ConnectHome USA Summit 2017: Sharing opportunities for cross-sector collaboration.

Between the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP), Allegheny County Housing Authority (ACHA), and the City of Pittsburgh, we have taken a stand. We will work to make digital inclusion a priority across Pittsburgh and Allegheny County by joining the ConnectHome USA initiative. As a coalition partner, Knowledge Build Hudson (HACP) and I attended the ConnectHome USA Summit at HUD offices on October 31st & November 1st to learn about strategies other cities have deployed to decrease this technology divide beginning with residents in HUD assisted housing. Here are a few take-a-ways of initiatives happening across the country making an impact and decreasing the digital divide.

Philadelphia supports data and tablet distribution in partnership with T-Mobile for 5k residents. Philadelphia Housing Authority shared their recent distribution of 5000 tablets and two years of free data to residents in HUD housing. T-mobile provided the tablets and Philly SEEDS the housing authority affiliate is financing the data plans for two years. Already, the housing authority has seen increased use of applications necessary and has facilitated lessons on mobile banking and other resources that make every day tasks more accessible and limit the transportation barrier to receiving and applying for services.

Cleveland uses KANO to support youth Tech Training. KANO is a UK company that has created these incredible, build yourself computers. Once built, with a lego like assembly process, students can use the computers for games around coding and general technology education. It is an easy way to introduce computer science through a mechanism that is accessible and even slightly familiar. KANO is also a big partner of the Best Buy Teen Tech Center, a grant opportunity through Best Buy to create hubs for teens to access technology tools and resources.

Cristina Foundation Hosts Computer Refurbishing Summit in Pittsburgh. Non-profit computer refurbish organizations across the country came together in Pittsburgh over the summer to build a network in partnership with the Christina Foundation. One such computer refurbish organization, Computer Reach, has been working on digital inclusion work through supplying refurbished, affordable devices to individuals across 29 states and 33 nations. The summit showcased the value of non-profit refurbishing organizations and how lucky we are in Pittsburgh to have one in our hometown, dedicated to the recycling and affordable re-use of devices for our most vulnerable residents.

Austin, Texas Pushes Digital Inclusion Forward Through a Comprehensive Strategy. Check out Austin’s plan for digital inclusion. They shared amazing take-a-ways. Through a Housing Authority program, Unlocking the Connection, Austin provides free internet to 1,838 residential public housing units through a partnership with Google Fiber. This service is coupled with training and pathways to device ownership. We are excited to continue learning from their success as a mentor of ConnectHome Nation.

ConnectHome USA Summit 2017: Expressing strategies to get Public Housing Association Girls into STEM

 

Everyone On Provides Database of Affordable Internet Access Opportunities. Affordable internet access is available throughout the country. Find out if you qualify by going to everyoneon.org and typing in your zip code. There you can find affordable pathways to in-home access, more information about how to get connected, and resources to share with friends and family members to help them get connected.

Next Steps for the Pittsburgh Region

There is a lot of work to do and it is exciting to be in a city committed to making that work happen. Right now, our ConnectHome Coalition is working to measure baselines specifically among individuals in HUD assisted housing. We plan to change HUD forms to include digital connection questions and hope to complete a survey of residents across the city and the county. Stay tuned for details of the public announcement early next year. We will be gathering key stakeholders from the city and county, including housing authority residents to kickoff this initiative with a public announcement and event for input. If you are someone or attached to an organization working in digital inclusion, please contact me ([email protected]) and I will be sure to add you to our communications list.

Source: https://medium.com/department-of-innovation-performance/will-the-internet-be-a-tool-to-divide-us-or-bring-us-together-74441041caa0

Let’s get to work!

Chike Aguh serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Everyone On, the facilitating partner of ConnectHome USA in association with HUD

Learn more about Pittsburgh’s Digital Services and keep up with the Roadmap for Inclusive Innovation by following us on Pittsburgh I&P.

Source: Will the internet be a tool to divide us or bring us together?

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