Giving Compass' Take:

• Local governments should establish digital equity offices that can help address the challenges brought on by digital divides. 

• What resources do local governments need to make digital equity offices become a reality? 

• Read about three ways to tackle digital equity. 

The American economy continues to digitalize at an astounding pace, but tens of millions of American households cannot access the digital economy due to physical gaps in local broadband networks, unaffordable subscription plans and personal devices, and a lack of digital skills. Digital equity offices would aim to address these structural barriers and ensure the digital economy reaches all local households.

Building on the experiences from established digital equity efforts, each new office would work collaboratively with other agencies and regional stakeholders to establish clear goals, co-design solutions, and measure progress. Establishing a digital equity office will create a permanent administrative unit to prioritize historically disadvantaged groups and neighborhoods, build trust, and create interventions to directly benefit those who have struggled the most to digitally compete. Local digital equity offices allow for local governments to be more in touch with the needs of their communities and give them the authority to negotiate with internet service providers in their region.

Broadband has become essential infrastructure for the 21st century. Just as entire industries and personal activities developed around electricity in the 20th century, the same level of economic and social transformation is underway using digital services today. Schools, offices, retail stores, and governments all rely on online platforms, offering people significant time savings and new ways to prosper.  Meanwhile, digital skills are increasingly necessary for a growing number of jobs.

To address these challenges, local governments should establish digital equity offices to deliver households the tools to physically access and use broadband and related digital services.

  • Address network gaps
  • Promote affordable subscriptions and devices
  • Coordinate digital skills interventions
  • Understand and represent community interests

Read the full article about bridging the digital divide by Adie Tomer and Lara Fishbane at Brookings.