Congratulations to Next Century Cities Executive Director Deb Socia! She was presented the 2018 Charles Benton Digital Equity Champion Award last week at Net Inclusion in Cleveland, Ohio. The award — created by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance and named for Charles Benton, the visionary founder of the Benton Foundation — recognizes and celebrates leadership in advancing digital equity.

 

Deb has lead a variety of successful and innovative digital equity initiatives throughout her career. As a principal in Boston, she led a successful one-to-one laptop initiative that helped students leverage technology in school and at home. Later as the Executive Director of TechGoesHome, she worked to make technology more accessible for all residents of Boston through digital literacy training and affordable devices.

 

Deb brings this impressive track record and experience to her role as the Executive Director of Next Century Cities, where she works to ensure that all have access to fast, affordable, reliable broadband. Deb’s leadership has helped cities across the country who hope to equitably serve their communities and to ensure that all residents can reap the benefits of 21st century internet.

 

As Adrianne B. Furniss said in her remarks:

 

“Deb is about trust and relationships. She realizes that digital inclusion isn’t something that happens to a community; her initiatives happen with the communities they’re designed to support.

NCC encourages cities to use their convening power to bring together community stakeholders on crafting solutions to digital inclusion issues to ensure everyone’s participation in our digital society.

Deb is about innovation. As former executive director of Boston’s Tech Goes Home, she helped empower communities to access and use digital tools to overcome barriers to technology adoption and advance lives. Her work helped low-income and underserved populations, those without technology at home, the unemployed and underemployed, people who do not speak English, and individuals with disabilities.

Ubiquitous connectivity, regardless of age, education, experience, neighborhood, I think we all agree, is essential. Deb’s work is a light that demonstrates that it is possible.

I’d like to close with a quote from one of her nominators, in part because it reminded me how much Charles Benton and Deb had in common – they both started their careers as teachers:

‘In every role she takes on, in every fight she champions, and in every community she serves, she is first and foremost an educator. What does that mean? She is a revolutionary, a passionate advocate – to her absolute core, she has devoted her life to ensuring that the next generation will have more opportunities than previous ones… It means that she loves her work, that she tackles challenges with unbridled passion… That she empowers, believes in, and changes the lives of individuals and their families. That she takes what’s at her disposal to diminish isolation, build bridges, improve quality of life, and foster agency and resilience within communities. That she is an unsung hero, and one unquestionably deserving of recognition.’”

 

Passion, commitment, and a laser focus on equity have allowed Deb to bring about real change during her career. We join NDIA and Benton in celebrating her success!