You are here

The View from Los Angeles on Digitally Inclusive Communities

September 15, 2011

By Susan Hildreth
Director, IMLS

I’ve just returned to Washington, D.C. from a great visit to the Los Angeles Public Library.  The library, together with the California State Library, hosted a meeting of community members and community leaders who got together to critique the latest version of IMLS’s “Framework for Digitally Inclusive Communities.”  This was the first of three meetings to get a “reality check” on the work we have been doing to help communities make smart decisions so that everyone has the benefits that broadband access can deliver.

To create the “Framework” we have talked with a lot of policy makers – this was our first opportunity to hear from people who probably would not call themselves experts but have important life experiences to share.  On Monday night, 40 people gave the framework a road test.  Everyone got very engaged in the topic and stayed until 9:00 p.m.!

Community members urged us to take into account a host of considerations like language and age (not just seniors, kids too) that can impact broadband use and adoption.

On Tuesday morning, we met with a small group of community leaders who are deeply engaged in making state and local decisions that impact digital adoption and inclusion.  They described current efforts as sporadic and while a great beginning, there is much to do.   They urged us to think big and understand that digital inclusion will require the commitment of both the public and private sectors.

Why not involve a host of partners in a national campaign to raise awareness and compel local action?  We heard ideas for a scorecard or badges that would brand “digitally-inclusive communities” and provide models for others.  One suggestion urged the development of a roadmap so that communities could see where they were on their journey to digital inclusion with phases like Awareness, Access, Adoption, Action, and Achievement.

One of the things that came through loud and clear is that every community is different and I’m really looking forward to the next stops on our three city tour: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Bangor, Maine .  Hearing a variety of perspectives is so important.  We learned a lot and I’m so glad we had the opportunity to get real public feedback.

Editor’s note:  IMLS is working with the University of Washington Information School and the International City/County Management Association to incorporate feedback into the next version of the “Framework.”  A survey to get broad public input is also planned and will be available on in the coming months.