PHILADELPHIA—The City today announced that it has released a 5-year Digital Equity Plan and has established an executive order dedicated to addressing the digital equity needs of Philadelphia. Philadelphia’s first Digital Equity Plan lays out key goals and strategies to address the inequities that contribute to the digital divide.
“Philadelphia will continue its diligent work toward establishing digital equity for all,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “The executive order establishes a policy that emphasizes the importance of digital equity for our city and enables the creation of the city-wide Digital Equity Plan. As the City works to achieve digital access for all Philadelphians, we will continue to invest in and support resources within the Office of Innovation and Technology to drive this work as well as expand cross-departmental collaboration to implement the policy and plan.”
The Plan describes how the City will confront issues of affordability and access to broadband and devices. Additionally, it will address intersecting barriers of language, race, limited digital literacy skills, disabilities, and more—all of which contribute to the digital divide in Philadelphia. While digital equity has remained a focus for the City’s Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT) for over 10 years, the pandemic has forced the consequences of the digital divide into day-to-day life for residents. To address the barriers in Philadelphia, the City created this overarching plan to serve as a roadmap for digital equity for the next 5 years.
“The pandemic has shown that internet and device access is essential for daily living—including accessing health care and government services, closing the homework gap, and supporting a 21st century workforce,” said Mark Wheeler, the City’s Chief Information Officer. “The creation of the Digital Equity Plan and the official decree of the policy will help the City better address the various issues that contribute to the digital divide. Philadelphia’s digital equity work now has a strong foundation through better resourcing, strategies, goals, and an overall understanding of the city’s needs.”
The Digital Equity Plan lays out four key goals:
- Philadelphians can access appropriate and affordable technology devices;
- Philadelphians can access and afford the internet connectivity they need;
- Philadelphians develop the digital skills necessary for work and life; and
- Philadelphia grows and sustains the capacity and infrastructure required to increase digital equity.
The Digital Equity Plan also calls attention to the following objectives:
- Funding crucial initiatives that support digital equity across Philadelphia, including PHLConnectED, Digital Navigators, the City’s network of public computing centers, digital literacy courses, and more;
- Engaging with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania about digital equity needs, especially as it develops policies for the distribution of federal dollars, including funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL); and
- Forming public-private partnerships to encourage businesses and anchor institutions to engage in digital equity work and highlighting how overcoming the digital divide will benefit all communities and sectors in Philadelphia.
“The Digital Equity Plan is a strong, detailed blueprint for bringing true and lasting equity to digital access and literacy, which are cornerstones of adult education in Philadelphia,” said Dr. Christine Piven, Executive Director of Adult Education in the Office of Children and Families. “This plan points the way to how we must collaborate to make true gains and to help residents reach their goals. I’m tremendously excited by the release of the plan.”
OIT created the Digital Equity Plan with the input of dozens of community members, advocates, and other critical stakeholders engaged in digital inclusion work. Additionally, OIT used the results and research from the 2021 Philadelphia Household Internet Assessment Survey to inform the Plan.