Photo: GLR-Webinar—The Federal Role in Advancing Digital Equity

Summary + Observations: The Federal Role in Advancing Digital Equity

Posted on November 11, 2020 by John Ferguson, TPF Fellow 2020/21

Recently, I had the incredible opportunity to represent The Patterson Foundation by serving as a commentator in the fifth installment of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s Learning Loss Recovery Challenge webinar series focused on digital equity: The Federal Role in Advancing Digital Equity.

Dr. Vikki Katz of Rutgers University expertly served as moderator, leading a thoughtful, in-depth discussion around the federal role in achieving digital equity. Fellow commentators included Jack Lynch, director of state engagement at EducationSuperHighway, Claire Park, program associate at Open Technology Institute at New America, and three rockstar expert panelists: Larry Irving, CEO of the Irving Group, Angela Siefer, executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, and Divya Sridhar, policy director of Digital Equity at ExcelinEd.

Each panelist provided historical and current context to the broader issues enveloping the pursuit of digital equity and added illuminating observations of how the federal government might aid that effort going forward. Click here for a summary and links to resources shared during the webinar.

What emerged was an affirmation of the importance of exploring digital equity and searching for innovative long-term solutions that could close the digital divide for good. It became evident that digital access is no longer a luxury but a critical tool for full participation in today’s society.

Another crucial aspect of this conversation was the idea that kids do not live in isolation. As we consider digital equity solutions, it is paramount that they are designed with the whole family in mind, not solely focused on students themselves. When we lift up families, we lift up communities, which, of course, includes students. Community-driven approaches to closing the digital divide could have a much broader effect on our entire population.

Providing digital access, including the connection itself, appropriate devices for one’s needs, and the skills and support to use them effectively, is one way to lessen and eventually close the digital divide. A holistic approach is essential as we consider what might be possible on federal, regional, and community levels to create and leverage systemic solutions to pave the way for digital access for all.

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