The National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA)’s Net Inclusion conference has been a staple in the digital inclusion community since its first gathering seven years ago in Kansas City. This year the event was hosted in Philadelphia and over 1300 practitioners, advocates, academics, internet service providers, and policymakers came together. The conference featured panels, speakers, networking events, and many opportunities for attendees to share knowledge and discuss best practices.  

Mayor Parker speaks at Net Inclusion
Mayor Parker speaks at Net Inclusion

The event began on Tuesday, February 13th with opening remarks from Mayor Cherelle Parker. The Mayor graciously welcomed attendees to the City of Brotherly Love and thanked participants for their work in digital equity. She enthusiastically shared that Philadelphia is prioritizing digital inclusion.  Without access to the internet, devices and digital literacy skills, residents can’t access economic opportunities and growth.  

The day was jam packed with special guests, including an appearance from Philly favorite, Gritty. Other noteworthy speakers included Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Alan Davidson, an advisor to President Biden on telecommunications policy. Also speaking on behalf of a bi-partisan bill to continue ACP funding was Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman.  

NDIA’s local planning team, which included the City’s Digital Equity team, did a great job showing Philly’s best side to our visitors. There were tour options available including a bus tour of four local digital equity partners and a walking tour of Temple University. The planning committee set up reservations at local restaurants, decked the place out in Philly sports décor, and even found soft pretzel shaped balloons.  

Over the course of the conference our Digital Equity team participated on three panel discussions:  

On Tuesday evening, the organization hosted an awards ceremony for the Trailblazers Awards that were announced in late 2023. During the event NDIA recognized the 47 municipalities and gave a special designation to Philadelphia, a Visionary Trailblazer! 

In a virtual world, the three-day conference was a refreshing and collaborative experience for people. It was an opportunity to build relationships, put names to faces, share ideas, and feel a sense of community. The nonprofit and public sector workers dedicated to digital equity are working hard, and it is comforting to know you are a part of this vast and amazing network of people pioneering this work in a rapidly changing landscape.