The coronavirus pandemic presented new challenges for Philadelphia—from adjusting to stay-at-home orders to wearing masks to working and learning digitally. These challenges highlighted issues embedded in the city: deep racial inequalities and a lack of digital access for many. As Philadelphia recovers, the City is prioritizing equity and committing to solving the digital divide.
Consistent and efficient digital access is necessary for students to learn remotely, for job seekers to find employment, and for all Philadelphia residents to take advantage of telehealth, apply for public benefits, and more.
An equitable recovery is the only recovery.
Three key strategies
The City’s goal is to provide affordable, simple, and reliable digital solutions for all Philadelphia residents. We’re focused on three core strategies that will specifically prioritize residents of color and high-poverty neighborhoods:
- Ensuring all K-12 public school students have consistent access to the technology, internet, and support that they need to engage in remote learning in the fall of 2020 and the beyond.
- Reimagining the future of public computing centers, including KEYSPOTS, in the context of a limited budget, COVID-19, and social distancing, and creating more in-home access for students and their families.
- Guaranteeing that all Philadelphians have access to affordable and reliable digital solutions so they can work and access everything from education to training to healthcare and other essential online services.
Forming a governance structure
We’re working with a broad range of stakeholders and communities to develop solutions. We need to understand the digital access and literacy needs of residents and especially prioritize disadvantaged communities.
The City wants input and many voices to contribute to this conversation about how to lessen the digital divide. We want to bring together public, private, philanthropic, and community interests and resources.
The Digital Literacy Alliance (DLA) will oversee this cross-departmental work. Additionally, we will create a cross-departmental coordinating committee that will steer and advance this work.
What are the next steps?
Here are our immediate plans and goals:
- Create the coordinating governance structure.
- Utilize City assets and infrastructure as well as use political, policy, and philanthropic connections to form short-term solutions.
- Listen to the Philadelphia community and consider its recommendations for reimagining public technology access services.
- Develop a comprehensive digital equity plan.
The City recognizes the importance of digital literacy and access for its residents. As we move forward and plan for a successful recovery, we understand that digital equity is a right—a right that we’ll be working to provide for all Philadelphians.