North Carolina is joining the National Digital Inclusion Alliance to observe Digital Inclusion Week from Oct. 2-6, aiming to bridge the digital divide. Several local organizations are teaming up for the NDIA, emphasizing the importance of internet access, computer skills and technology proficiency for all.
Throughout the week, NDIA is rallying community leaders and local governments to spring into action. A host of events, including device distributions and digital skills classes, are being organized to address and reduce the technology access gap. Awareness campaigns are also in the spotlight, aiming to underscore the critical need for digital inclusion and literacy in our increasingly connected world.
“Digital Inclusion Week creates an opportunity to highlight what our digital equity partners across the state are doing to close the digital divide,” said Maggie Woods, N.C. Department of Information Technology digital equity manager. “Many North Carolinians do not have a home internet connection or cannot afford one, lack sufficient computers and devices, or need training to safely use them. We are addressing these challenges by building local capacity across the state and identifying and investing in community partners who are meeting digital needs.”
NDIA works with more than 1,400 other organizations, according to its website, to support digital inclusion in four areas: equitable broadband access, tech devices, digital skills training and tech support.
“Local leaders, advocates, and organizations are the key actors and heroes who are ‘Building Connected Communities,’ our theme for Digital Inclusion Week 2023,” said Angela Siefer, executive director of NDIA. “Every local community action and event matters in connecting individuals and advancing digital equity nationwide.”
The N.C. Tech Association in Raleigh, the Durham-based Kramden Institute and a Charlotte-based cybersecurity digital literacy program are among the organizations hosting digital inclusion events this week, according to the alliance. A technology recycling drive hosted by N.C. Tech, Kramden and others “can help people cross the digital divide” to obtain laptops, cellphones and other technology, according to the association website.
Digital Bridges Forsyth and its multiple partners will debut a program this week that will provide free computers and related classes as part of a digital equity plan.
Carolina Public Press recognizes the importance of digital equity and inclusion, which are fundamental elements of active participation in society. In order to vote, attend school and increasingly hold meaningful employment, a high-speed, reliable internet connection is crucial. Fast and reliable internet access allows for increased participation in our society and democracy. We also know that digital inclusion goes beyond broadband to include devices, skills and support.
In 2022, Carolina Public Press started the NC Connection: Closing the News Gap study to learn more about what kind of news and information rural communities need. Rural communities and small towns are more likely to have suffered the loss of a local newspaper in recent years, so understanding the gaps in news coverage in rural areas was a primary goal of the study. Over 1,600 people took part in a survey for the NC Connection study.
The survey showed that in rural areas throughout the state, people of different races had unequal access to the internet. Some people only had internet on their cellphones at home. The survey also found that the biggest gaps in news reporting were in the areas of the environment, local government, local business and investigative stories. The largest gaps in news coverage were on environmental news, local government news coverage, local economy and business, and investigative stories, according to our survey data.
Though the NC Connection study has ended, our work has only just begun. In May 2023, we launched a new op-ed project that included a newsletter and website column called NC Talks. We believe that part of digital inclusion is making sure that everyone has the ability to participate in civic conversations in a digital format. All perspectives are welcome, and we want to hear from you. To get started writing your essay, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or visit our website to see our submission guidelines.
Carolina Public Press is committed to understanding and addressing the challenges of the digital divide and to bringing accurate, nonpartisan news coverage to all corners of the state. This week, as we celebrate Digital Inclusion Week alongside hundreds of organizations nationwide, CPP invites you to participate in the conversation at NC Talks and let us know how the digital divide has affected your ability to get the news and information you need.
The opinions and perspectives expressed in NC Talks columns are those of the authors. Submissions have been edited for length and clarity. They do not purport to reflect the views of Carolina Public Press, its staff, board of directors, or contributors.
To contribute an editorial or opinion piece, please email email@example.com with a brief summary of the topic, your full name, and your location. Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? If you find an error or have a response, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.