Secretary Eric Boyette Participates in Charlotte Digital Inclusion Alliance Digital Inclusion Tour & Playbook Launch

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Charlotte Digital Inclusion Alliance (CDIA) recently unveiled the “Digital Inclusion Playbook,” a report addressing digital inequity in Charlotte and recommending strategies to close the digital divide. The digital divide is the gap between those who have access to technology resources (i.e., computers, internet or broadband, smartphones) and those who don’t because of certain restrictions barriers such as socio-economic status and location.

To mark the playbook’s release, CDIA hosted government, nonprofit and industry partners, including NC DIT Secretary Eric Boyette and members of the Broadband Infrastructure Office for a tour and press conference highlighting CDIA member organizations’ work to close the digital divide in their communities. Participants gathered on September 27 at the Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont Opportunity Campus for a tour of the facility and an overview of the digital literacy training offered to job-seeking clients. During the tour, Dr. Dana McDonald, Director of the Opportunity Campus, emphasized how computer skills, access to high-speed connectivity and knowledge of digital best practices are “the ticket to the game” for participating in the workforce.

Next, attendees visited the Eliminating the Digital Divide (E2D) ReImage Lab at West Charlotte High School. Pat Millen, Executive Director of E2D, gave an overview of the issues facing students who fall within the homework gap and how E2D is working to get computers to students who need them. E2D collects donated computers and employs students in on-campus labs at twice the minimum wage to refurbish the computers. Three student employees shared that working in the lab has given them valuable skills, provided a convenient work opportunity and fostered close friendships amongst participants. E2D hopes to open 10 to 12 more labs next year.

The tour continued at Garinger High School, where the Sprint 1Million Project provided students with free Wi-Fi hotspots. More than 4,000 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) students who do not have access to high-speed connectivity at home will receive the hotspots through this program. Dr. Clayton M. Wilcox, CMS Superintendent, and Valerie Truesdale, Associate Superintendent for Personalization and School Partnerships, spoke about the importance of ensuring that students have the resources they need for long-term success and the opportunities that high-speed connectivity creates for students.

The final stop on the tour was the Jobs Plus center at Southside Homes, a Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA) development in west Charlotte. According to the CHA website, “CHA is one of nine public housing authorities in the country selected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to participate in Jobs Plus, a federally-funded initiative to help adults living in large public housing communities enter the workforce.” Jobs Plus offers work-readiness training that incorporates digital literacy as part of its mission to prepare participants for the workforce. Chris Campbell, Jobs Plus Program Manager for Charlotte Housing Authority, emphasized that in addition to facilitating employment, Jobs Plus, aims to foster a community atmosphere and create networking opportunities. CHA partners with 25 organizations to operate Jobs Plus.

The event concluded with a reception and press conference at the Goodwill Opportunity Campus. Bruce Clark, Charlotte Digital Inclusion Project Manager and Executive Director of Digital Charlotte at Queens University of Charlotte’s Knight School of Communication, kicked off the press conference by introducing the Digital Inclusion Playbook. Clark emphasized CDIA’s primary goal is to reduce the digital divide in Charlotte from 19 percent to 9 percent by 2026 because “lack of digital equity is directly tied to opportunity.” He said that he envisions a world where everyone has access to broadband in the home and that he and the CDIA are working to “drive towards digital equity for all.”

Secretary Boyette, speaking on behalf of Governor Cooper, lauded the CDIA and the member organizations for the strong partnerships they have created and the work they are doing to lessen the digital divide. “We must continue to find support for this issue,” he said, “You should be really proud of what you have completed and done.”

The Digital Inclusion Playbook is available for download on the CDIA website. More pictures of the CDIA Tour are available on NC DIT's Flickr Album.