June 17, 2011


IMLS Press Contacts
Natasha Marstiller, nmarstiller@imls.gov
Mamie Bittner, mbittner@imls.gov

Washington, DC—Libraries, businesses, hospitals, schools, cultural institutions, community technology centers and local governments face difficult decisions about how to create and sustain access to broadband technologies. To help community leaders make strategic decisions about technology investments, the Institute of Museum and Library Services released, Building Digitally Inclusive Communities: A guide to the proposed framework. The release is an initial step in IMLS's response to the National Broadband Plan, which recommended that the agency develop guidelines for public access technology to encourage use of broadband technologies.

In early 2009, Congress directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to develop a National Broadband Plan (NBP) to ensure that every American has "access to broadband capability." The NBP noted the significant individual and societal costs of "digital exclusion" and warned that absent action, these costs would grow.

The Institute recognized that an important step toward promoting digital inclusion is to provide tools to help communities assess their current capabilities, work across institutional boundaries and create plans, using a common set of principles, that would help business, anchor institutions (schools, hospitals, libraries), public safety and cultural institutions work together to fully and effectively realize the value of a digitally inclusive community.

"Communities across the United States are rising to the challenge to plan for and use digital technologies to advance education, workforce, health and other national policy goals," said Susan Hildreth, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. "We are working together to create cities and towns where the power of technology and digital inclusiveness improves our global competitiveness and community life."

The guide identifies goals and action steps associated with four foundational principles:

  • availability and affordability;
  • public access;
  • accessibility for people with disabilities and
  • adoption and digital literacy

and six targeted principles:

  • consumer education and protection;
  • education; economic and workforce development;
  • civic engagement;
  • public safety and emergency services;
  • healthcare and
  • quality of life

It encourages engagement across all sectors of the community to develop a shared understanding of digital inclusion and to create, implement and continually revise and evaluate a plan to achieve a vision in which "all people, businesses, and institutions have access to digital content and technologies that enable them to create and support healthy, prosperous, and cohesive 21st century communities."

The guide was developed in partnership with the University of Washington Information School and the International City/County Management Association. It benefited from the input of more than one hundred organizations and individuals with deep knowledge about public access to technology and the diverse information needs of communities. The partners will continue to work together to introduce the report and gather additional input. A final version of the framework will incorporate additional insights gathered from a series of community forums and will serve as a resource for organizations, and community and business leaders.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development. To learn more about the Institute, please visit www.imls.gov.

University of Washington The Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington Information School explores the design, use, and effects of information and communication technologies in communities facing social and economic challenges. With experience in 50 countries, TASCHA brings together a multidisciplinary network of social scientists, engineers, and development practitioners to conduct research, advance knowledge, create public resources, and improve policy and program design. Our purpose? To spark innovation and opportunities for those who need it most.

ICMA, the International City/County Management Association, advances professional local government worldwide. Our mission is to create excellence in local governance by developing and advancing professional management to create sustainable communities that improve lives worldwide. ICMA provides member support; publications; data and information; peer and results-oriented assistance; and training and professional development to nearly 9,000 city, town, and county experts and other individuals and organizations throughout the world. The management decisions made by ICMA's members affect millions of individuals living in thousands of communities, from small villages and towns to large metropolitan areas.