Access to high-speed connectivity helps to support economically viable and resilient communities. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced government, business, and other essential services to migrate almost exclusively online, the need for equal access became impossible to ignore. Residents with broadband were able to comply with remote learning mandates, had economic opportunities, and maintained access to healthcare. Those who did not were unable to adapt and, months later, continue to be limited by their income and geography.
Nationwide and particularly in Southwest Queens, the digital divide continues to have a stranglehold on seniors and low-income residents. On November 14, 2020, NY Senator James Sanders Jr. invited Francella Ochillo, Next Century Cities’ Executive Director, to provide keynote remarks at a digital equity event designed to address the digital divide in Southeast Queens.
The conference outlined the state of broadband connectivity in the tenth senatorial district and practical solutions. NY Senator Diane Savino raised cybersecurity issues and the importance of incorporating privacy education into digital literacy training. NY Assemblyman Clyde Vanel reiterated the importance of reducing price, increasing competition, and tackling the digital skills gap.
There is room for every stakeholder in closing the digital divide. Senator Sanders is building a coalition of support to develop long-term solutions. Government officials can provide policy solutions that expand digital infrastructure. Private sector or philanthropic partnerships play a critical role in developing broadband access and adoption strategies. Long-term success will depend on having community leaders who are invested in digital literacy and training. Together, community leaders can help to eliminate connectivity barriers for residents in the greatest need.