Next Century Cities and Google Fiber have announced the winners of the 2017 Digital Inclusion Leadership Awards at the the Broadband Communities Summit in Dallas, Texas. Across the nation, local leaders are recognizing the value of bringing more people online and taking bold actions to bridge the digital divide in their community. The Digital Inclusion Leadership Awards celebrate city governments who are leading programs or empowering community-based organizations to tackle barriers to internet adoption, while also encouraging leaders in the public sector to get involved in digital inclusion by sharing best practices.

 

The Awards consists of two categories: 1) Leader in Digital Inclusion Best Practices and 2) Most Promising New Plan. The Leader in Digital Inclusion Best Practices category recognizes digital inclusion efforts that have been operating for at least one year, while the Most Promising New Plan category recognizes upstart digital inclusion efforts. Winners were chosen based on their program’s ability to provide training, access, and hardware to a diverse range of participants, at low cost, with proven results and community engagement. Within each category, our distinguished panel of judges selected two overall winners and one additional winner for the most innovative project. Please find more information on the winning projects below:

 

Leader in Digital Inclusion Best Practices

  • Boston, MA: The City of Boston has been an unparalleled supporter of Tech Goes Home since its inception. Tech Goes Home empowers low-­income and underserved residents in Greater Boston to access and use life­-changing digital tools to address their most pressing needs. Tech Goes Home combines a training model with the expertise of local community­ based partners to run technology courses in schools, libraries, community centers, public housing communities, small business assistance organizations, and early childhood centers. Since 2000, more than 21,000 residents have been impacted.
  • Raleigh, NC: The City of Raleigh’s Information Technology department launched the Raleigh Digital Connectors program in 2010. Raleigh Digital Connectors teaches valuable technological skills to youth in the community who then teach their family members and other members of the community. The program is a vehicle for increasing broadband adoption and life skill development, which will be accomplished through a multi-generational approach with the ultimate goal of stimulating economic growth. Through access, education, awareness, and information the Raleigh Digital Connectors are building a culture that values and embraces technology to enhance lives.
  • Most Innovative — Chicago, IL: Chicago Public Library partnered with Peer 2 Peer University to create Learning Circles, a program that engages adults in online learning by creating face-to-face study groups at public libraries. To be a successful online learner, patrons must have strong digital literacy, self-motivation, and perseverance in an environment lacking social support and contextualized course content. Libraries are well positioned to mitigate barriers, offering trained staff, digital access and resources, strong community ties, and a culture of lifelong learning that can transform online courses into engaging and empowering learning experiences for millions of Americans who are currently digitally excluded. All Learning Circles have taken place in branch libraries across the city, have been facilitated and supported by librarians, and are offered as services to nurture learning for adults.

 

Most Promising New Plan

  • Riverside County, CA: The County of Riverside, is tackling digital inclusion in collaboration with all 28 cities in the county, two councils of government, and participating local tribal communities. They have partnered to adopt a common resolution in support of the county’s broadband master plan and the creation of RIVCOconnect initiative. RIVCOconnect is starting in the City of Riverside and surrounding communities with a goal of closing the digital divide countywide and within all 28 cities by providing computer equipment and improving digital literacy in underserved communities. RIVCOconnect plans to provide low or no­cost access to internet service for all residents throughout the county, and will provide the participants (families, students, elderly, veterans, and others) in the Digital Equity Program with computers. This will enable them to gain the freedom and knowledge found and utilized daily by the rest of our digitally connected community.
  • New York City, NY: Queensbridge Connected is the first collaboration between the City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications and its public housing authority, and the first retrofit of a NYCHA property for managed Wi­FiThe goal of Queensbridge Connected is to improve the quality of life for the residents of the Queensbridge Houses through universal broadband. This program is a key part of the administration’s commitment to provide universal, affordable, high­speed internet to all New Yorkers by 2025. It serves as a model for a fully and equitably connected city.
  • Most Innovative — Kansas City, MO: The Internet Services and Weatherization Program arose from conversations with City staff and the Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion.The Internet Services and Weatherization Program program will provide low-income residents receiving energy saving repairs including insulation, efficient furnaces and water heaters with internet services and access to web based resources to maximize the cost saving benefits of these investments. This program adds value and innovation to existing city programs and assists the City in achieving the goals of its Digital Equity Strategic Plan by promoting the relevance of the internet to residents.

 

*A note on the selection process: Applicants were evaluated by a committee including one representative each from Austin Free-Net, Benton Foundation, Google Fiber, National Digital Inclusion Alliance, New America’s Open Technology Institute, PEW Research Center, Public Knowledge, South Texas College, and Youth Policy Institute. More information on our judges can be found here. We received 30 applications for these awards.