Long Beach, News

Long Beach achieves Six-Star status, named 2022 Digital Inclusion Trailblazer

The City of Long Beach was named a 2022 Digital Inclusion Trailblazer by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance for bringing digital access to minority groups lacking internet.

The achievement was made possible by the city’s Digital Inclusion Initiative, which has addressed the digital divide facing groups less likely to have wireless internet access.

“We are proud to be recognized by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance for our progress on digital inclusion and equity in Long Beach,” said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia in a press release.

Partnering with community-based organizations such as Centro Cha and Long Beach Forward, the city sought out community members and leaders with a perspective on what levels of assistance were needed.

The outreach helped establish a multilingual Digital Inclusion Resources Hotline, administered over 1,000 hotspots and 1,500 computing devices, and connected more than 21,000 residents to digital inclusion resources and services.

Closing the divide will take time, as the digital inclusion roadmap revealed that African-American households are twice as likely to be without internet access than white households.

The most affected group is Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander households which suffer 11.7% being without internet access.

“The city of Long Beach is striving for digital inclusion to ensure that everyone has equitable access of digital literacy training, technology devices, and internet training,” said Rebecca F. Kauma the project lead for economic and digital inclusion for the city of Long Beach.

Hotspots were administered on a first-come, first-serve basis. The city provided free one-year internet service plans to qualified, low-income Long Beach residents through the Free Internet Services and Computing Devices program.

In June 2021 Long Beach approved its first Digital Inclusion Roadmap, co-developing it with the Digital Inclusion Stakeholder Committee and including impacted residents in the process. The 55-page roadmap is expected to begin implementation efforts in the fall and outlines a collective impact approach with three focus areas: capacity, connectivity and technology.

Long Beach was among nine cities to receive a six-star score, checking off all of the NDIA’s evaluation criteria. The group saw the highest number of six-star scores the NDIA has given yet.

There were six pieces of criteria expected by the NDIA to consider a city or region eligible for Trailblazer status. The criteria included full-time local government staff, a digital inclusion plan, an open-access coalition, survey research, funded digital inclusion programming and efforts to increase affordability of home broadband service.

Cities and governments have come together sharing tested tactics and learning strategies that effectively pursue digital equality. The cache of information between them is one of the trailblazers’ most invaluable asset, according to NDIA executive director Angela Siefer.

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