Editor's Note: Three essential elements—connectivity, devices, and skills/support—emerged as critically important through The Patterson Foundation’s in-depth research and interviews with national thought-leaders in digital access. To dive deeper, read these contributions by participants in TPF's Fellows Program – An Essential Element of Digital Access: Having the Right Device by Kellie Alexander; Empowering Digital Inclusion: The Role of Skills and Support Training in Digital Access by Alexa Carr; and Connecting to Close "The GAP" by Rachel Ploss.
What do a seat, three legs, and rungs have to do with the Digital Access for All (DA4A) initiative? A lot more than you might initially believe! The DA4A initiative can be best summarized as a three-legged stool and all of the unique pieces that allow that stool to function effectively. Each piece needs to exist and collaborate for digital access to be achieved.
First, we have the seat of the stool. This is the portion held aloft by the three legs and represents a meeting of each of those legs. The seat is where connections are made between the three legs and is a space that supports and defines the purpose of each leg holding it up.
Next, we have our first leg, Connectivity. This leg is all about access to digital connections and devices. Connectivity focuses on strengthening digital access among people of all ages and backgrounds — especially those from asset-limited families and does so through programs like The Gap.
Our second leg is Devices. This leg focuses on the necessity of having access to more devices capable of connecting to the internet that meet a person’s individual needs. This leg emphasizes the need for reliable and affordable equipment and highlights the importance of organizations like Sarasota Technology Users Group that work to provide devices to the community.
The final leg is Skills/Support. This leg highlights the importance of access to the training and support needed to use devices and programs successfully while also being able to solve technical issues effectively when they arise. The Digital Navigator Program is an example of how this is being achieved.
Finally, we have our rungs. The rungs provide additional support and represent the overlap between the different legs of DA4A. They are vital in achieving digital access for all because they demonstrate the need for communication and the inherent interconnectedness of the work in each leg.
Next time you come across a project or a stool, I invite you to think about the importance and interconnectedness of each piece. Though small and ineffective when separated, each of these parts can bring digital access to all when they are connected. As you go about your work, consider where you could use additional assistance or how you can connect with others because this outreach might strengthen and support more than you expect.