On March 9, 2017, the City of Kansas City, Missouri adopted the Digital Equity Strategic Plan, charting a “path from digital inclusion to economic mobility and entrepreneurship” as its central theme. This path includes the traditional Three-Legged Stool of Digital Inclusion (connectivity, computing device, digital life skills training) as step 1, enabling residents to first become consumers of the Internet. This traditional approach often sets a goal of enabling people to access the Internet for basic needs, such as signing up for healthcare, safety net services, online banking, and other basic services. We are expanding our focus to support residents also becoming Learners, Digital Citizens, Employees and Entrepreneurs through increased connectivity, low cost devices, and fostering opportunities for residents to learn and participate in the community and the digital economy. The Digital Equity Strategic Plan is also a guide to the City’s participation in the Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion and other local, state and national coalitions and advocacy to advance digital equity.
The Digital Equity Strategic Plan highlights six major components:
- Use of the Internet for the Consumer – Broadband Access, Computing Devices and Digital Literacy (Traditional 3-legged Stool of Digital Inclusion)
- Use of the Internet for the Learner – Education, Lifelong Learning and Distance Learning
- Use of the Internet for the Digital Citizen – Digital Citizenship and Civic Tech
- Use of the Internet for Employment – Computer Technical Skills, Workforce Training and Distance Working
- Use of the Internet for the Entrepreneur – Business Creation, Job Creation, and Home-based Business
- Collaboration Around Access to the Internet – Sharing and participating in digital equity strategies locally, regionally and nationally
We will also document the success of our residents in following this path. One recent example is documented in the KCLibrary Trey Redrick Story.
In Kansas City, we are continuing to build a strong digital engagement ecosystem that includes a multitude of stakeholders and partnerships that are all benefiting from participation in this effort. The City has taken a collaborative approach to obtaining digital equity in Kansas City, serving as a founding member of the Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion – a community of stakeholders committed to narrowing the digital divide.
The City’s activities in digital inclusion ramped up as the City prepared its response to Google Fiber’s Fiber for Communities Request for Information in 2010. The story of the City’s success at attracting Google Fiber to the KC region is well documented as is the existence of KC’s digital divide that was highlighted by Google Fiber’s arrival. Today, KCMO is happy to say that Google Fiber gigabit Internet services are available to over 210,861 households across the city limits including over 440,375 of our City’s 464,000 residents including residents of economically distressed neighborhoods. This project is making the KC region America’s first gigabit Internet region and this plan seeks to ensure that all Kansas Citians have the opportunity to benefit.
City staff committed to digital equity has been key to making connections that have produced some amazing new opportunities for residents to access the Internet. One serendipitous example occurred during a tour of the recently completed Morningstar Family Life Center with Pastor John Modest Miles. Upon arrival, staff noticed there were no computers in the computer lab. Pastor Miles stated he had not been able to work on that with all of the other activities related to completing the center. City staff contacted Bob Akers at The Surplus Exchange, who has been one of the strongest partners in bringing refurbished computers to low income residents and non-profits. Within two weeks, Bob’s team supplied the computers and rewired the center’s Internet services to optimize connectivity. Pastor Miles sent this photo showing the excitement of some of the kids using the new computers.
The City’s digital inclusion efforts have led to participation in a number of national initiatives. These relationships allow us to share, implement, and advocate for digital inclusion ideas and best practices from around the country. The City is involved in the following national coalitions and programs.
- Founding member of Next Century Cities
- Founding affiliate of National Digital Inclusion Alliance
- White House/HUD ConnectHome Initiative
- White House TechHire Initiative
- Collect Shift/Fossil Foundation LRNG Program
- Kansas City, Mo. has ranked in the top 3 in the Center for Digital Government’s annual Digital Cities Survey since 2014
In Kansas City, the future for digital inclusion and digital equity is bright. The continued momentum of increased educational opportunities, technological innovation, job and business creation requires us to vigilantly pursue clear paths to economic mobility for all of our residents. The City’s ongoing commitment to facilitating public-private partnerships is critical to this success.