DC needs digital equity now. And we’re not the only ones who see the urgency.
The letter below is from 18 organizations, including Byte Back, who see the rising need to close the digital divide in the District. Together, we’re asking DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and DC Council to take action in the FY21 budget and prioritize digital inclusion for all residents, including adults who will need digital resources and training to re-enter the workforce this year.
The Open Letter on Digital Equity:
June 16, 2020
Dear Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmember David Grosso, Councilmember Elissa Silverman, Councilmember Brandon Todd, and Mayor Muriel Bowser:
Today, digital skills aren’t a luxury – they’re a necessity.
Thousands of Washington, DC residents don’t have the option for computer-based jobs, and with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we see an opportunity for the District to be a leader in digital equity and in building pathways to the middle class.
In DC, 25% of households don’t have broadband access. East of the Anacostia River, this jumps above 50%, according to DC government reports. In addition, about 14% of unemployed adults are not digitally literate, according to a US Department of Education report.
The digital divide is hitting harder than ever. Unfortunately, we’re seeing significant retrenchment for digital inclusion in the FY21 DC budget. This budget doesn’t make an investment in digital equity for adults. In fact, it removes key programs that strive to close the gap. Our most vulnerable community members will be further left behind without an investment in digital inclusion.
We’re confident the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO), DC Public Library, Department of Employment Services (DOES), and the Workforce Investment Council (WIC) have the ability to play an essential role in building a more digitally equitable DC.
We envision a DC where adult residents have access to free digital skills training to:
- Get a fair shot at essential career opportunities
- Utilize technology to safely apply for a job virtually and work from home
- Be able to assist their children with online learning
- Perform key life and health tasks, including accessing essential online services
- Be engaged citizens and access online DC government services
We urge the Council, committee chairs, and the Mayor to make adjustments to the FY21 budget to prioritize digital equity:
- Appoint a Digital Inclusion Officer for the District to ensure that digital equity is included across many DC government agencies.
- Maintain funding for DC’s digital inclusion initiative, Connect.DC, under OCTO, which has been a nationwide leader in awareness, partnerships, research, access to devices, access to broadband, and skills training.
- Restore funding for digital literacy training under the DC Public Library system, bringing free and open access to foundational computer training, which has been proven successful across library locations over years and meets national best practices as a hub for digital literacy.
- Increase funding in DC’s workforce development system, under DOES and the WIC, for technical skills training for adults to acquire living-wage careers in a digital future of work. Ensure that funding supports virtual training by including home device and broadband for participants and that training includes key foundational computer skills along with more advanced industry-recognized certifications.
Now, more than ever before, is the time for the District to invest in digital skills training, access to tech devices, and access to broadband. Residents of every ward deserve to safely support their families, engage with their communities, secure living-wage careers, and have equal access in today’s digital society and economy.
Please contact Yvette Scorse, Byte Back communications director, at gro.kcabetyb@esrocsy with any questions.
Elizabeth Lindsey, CEO, Byte Back
Building Bridges Across the River (Skyland Workforce Center)
Can I Live, Inc
Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED)
DC Central Kitchen
Edgewood/Brookland Family Support Collaborative
Hear Me Code
Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC)
Libraries Without Borders
National Digital Inclusion Alliance
Next Century Cities
Samaritan Ministry of Greater Washington
Wilderness Technology Alliance (WildTech)