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A focused response to digital inequity

Overview

We’re making digital inclusion a priority in all of Louisville’s neighborhoods—especially those in historically underserved areas. Today, participation in society relies on our ability to access and use the internet effectively. As more and more of modern life moves online, the gap between the digital haves and have-nots will only continue to widen. These divides mirror racial, socioeconomic, and geographic inequities in our community and nation as a whole. In order for Louisville to tap all of our region’s latent potential, we need to have a comprehensive response to digital inequity. Our areas of focus help us organize our projects and partnerships as we move ahead.
  • Improving Connectivity

    To achieve digital inclusion, all citizens must be able to access affordable, convenient, reliable, fast, and full (not exclusively mobile) internet access. The problem is partly about infrastructure and partly about affordability. Internet access should be available in Louisville in the same way as water or electricity.

    Our Challenge
    Economic Disparities

    The more you earn, the more likely you are to have fast, reliable internet access at home. Digital inclusion means that those who most need access to better-paying jobs would have the same fast, reliable internet as those who already make $75,000 or more. Improving connectivity can help address other economic divides.

    Connectivity is a challenge for many Louisville residents. We know that in our city, residents' access to broadband at home differs greatly if we consider their socioeconomic, racial, and educational backgrounds. The metrics below present the challenges we'll address with the Digital Inclusion Plan.

    Internet subscription rates per household income:

    Racial Disparities

    Different racial groups have differing levels of access to the internet at home

    Percent Without Access to Home Internet by Race:

    Educational Disparities

    There is also a digital divide in terms of education—if you hold a bachelor’s degree, you’re 50% more likely to have access to broadband internet at home than someone who does not have a high school diploma.

    Educational Attainment and Rates of Broadband Subscriptions:

    • Of those with less than high school diploma: 41.8% have a broadband subscription
    • Of those with high school diplomas, but less than college degrees: 72.7%
    • Of those holding a bachelor’s or graduate degree(s): 90.1%
    Our Goal

    Ensure our residents have access to affordable broadband at home. We want to achieve a 15% increase in home internet access by 2022.

    2017 Goal

    Connect 500 families to the internet.

    What We Are Doing To Achieve Our Goals

    Crowdsourcing internet speeds with Speed Up Louisville
    Speed Up Louisville measures internet speeds in Louisville, allowing us to track and improve performance through key policies and partnerships.

    Making public Wi-Fi available with Market Street Wi-Fi
    Through the Market Street Wi-Fi project, 24/7 internet access is available to the public at locations along Market Street in West Louisville. The project offers connectivity to residents in a low-access area.

    Extending broadband access at the Louisville Free Public Library
    Over 63,000 users per month access public computers at the LFPL branches, especially in lower-income neighborhoods.

    Making Wi-Fi available at community centers
    At community centers in West Louisville, roughly 900 GB are transferred each month on the public networks.

    Recommendations:
    • Engage ISPs and utilities to address equity
    • Work with Community Partners to sign eligible families up for low-cost home internet plans
    • Ensure public buildings serve as service backstops
    Benchmark: Chattanooga

    Chattanooga, Tenn., was the first city to achieve universal 10-gigabit connectivity for their entire community. This public, utility-based model has helped transform Chattanooga into an economically revived city that also boasts a 3-D printing hub, a GIGTANK Business Incubator, a downtown population projected to double, and America’s most advanced electricity grid.

    The city’s electricity utility, EPB, offers broadband internet to its residential and business customers within the city limits; broadband connectivity has become a basic utility. Chattanooga provides two tiers of fiber pricing, plus a low-cost Digital Divide program for low-income families.

  • Teaching Digital Skills

    Train residents in digital skills to increase their employability and ability to participate in modern society.

    We think of digital skills in three respects:

    DIGITAL LITERACY

    Training citizens to be digitally literate.

    JOB PREPAREDNESS

    Making sure residents are equipped for “middle-skill jobs” and opportunities in professional/office environments.

    ADVANCED PROGRAMMING

    Teaching advanced-level programming classes.

    “Fundamentally, even if tech is second nature, a lot of young people need to understand it’s not just for social media and gaming. This is about careers, wealth building, and challenging people to leverage tech more comprehensively to improve their quality of life.”
    COMMUNITY PERSPECTIVE · Jeana Dunlap, Louisville Office of Redevelopment Strategy
    Our Challenge

    Most job postings are now online, and every part of pursuing work requires computers and internet access. Nationwide, nearly 80% of job seekers who looked for employment in the last 2 years used the internet, more than those who leaned on personal connections or networking.

    Black and Hispanic households are 16 and 11 percentage points less likely to have an internet connection than white households, respectively, while Native American households trail white ones by 19 percentage points.

    Most job postings are now online, and every part of pursuing work requires computers and internet access. Nearly 80% of job seekers who looked for employment in the last 2 years used the internet, more than those who leaned on personal connections or networking.

    A survey conducted by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found that African Americans are more likely than average to rely on the internet for job search and to say the internet was very important to landing a job. Of particular interest: African Americans are relying on social media and mobile devices for job search at higher rates than the general population.

    Our Goal

    Make sure our all of our workforce is prepared for modern and future jobs.

    2017 Goal

    Provide comprehensive training to 200 residents needing improved digital skills.

    What We Are Doing To Achieve Our Goals

    Supporting Code Louisville
    Every 90 days, there are around 100 unfilled junior software development opportunities open in the Louisville Metro area. Code Louisville offers software development tracks, totaling 24 weeks, for adults who want to pursue a new career—at no cost to students. People can participate in Code Louisville in 3 ways: as students, as teaching mentors, or as hiring companies interested in bringing on our newly-trained talent. So far, 289 Louisville residents have completed at least one 12-week coding course. Of those, 57 graduates now work in the tech sector here.

    Beech Tech is an exciting program that brings coding to Louisville’s youth.
    Building off of the success of Code Louisville, in 2014 a pilot group of 7 high schoolers launched their own startup with support from the Code Louisville program. Beech Tech isn’t just about learning valuable digital skills—it’s also an opportunity to work with mentors and learn entrepreneurial skills. Since that first group in 2014, Beech Tech has expanded, with 3 teams working on web development and marketing projects. We’re looking to expand the program in the future.

    Supporting Programming at the Louisville Free Public Library
    Some residents may be proud owners of a new laptop—but not know how to use the software on their device, or need to work on building digital literacy skills for jobs in offices, or to create resumes. This is where the LFPL comes in, offering classes ranging from “Internet Basics” to “Resume Help”. LFPL also offers free access to Lynda.com, a premier online learning resource that offers more than 3,400 courses about technical skills, creative techniques, business strategies, and other topics. LFPL programs are free to anyone with a library card, thanks to a grant through the Office of Performance Improvement and Innovation.

    Recommendations:
    • Establish an inventory of local digital literacy efforts
    • Explore opportunities to create digital presence for vulnerable populations
    • Facilitate an expansion of digital skills course offerings
    • Encourage development of employment-focused digital skills training programs
    Benchmark: Seattle

    Seattle’s plan for digital inclusion includes a range of training options and educational opportunities that meet a diversity of learning styles. It boasts a technology fund for community organizations that promote digital literacy and for education programs, and encourages STEM and coding instruction for after-school programs. It also plans to increase awareness of digital skills training programs among “vulnerable workers,” increase access to technology skills training for small businesses owned by minorities and women, and to increase “train the trainer” programs in historically underserved communities. Finally, it plans to lead a marketing campaign to increase awareness of training and technical support opportunities.

  • Providing Hardware: Work with partners to provide technology and technical support to in-need residents.

    Louisville citizens need adequate and affordable hardware, assistive technology and technical support for those devices. Gaps exist across racial and socioeconomic lines nationwide in terms of laptop and desktop ownership. To take advantage of job and community opportunities, all residents need reliable access to a computer, not just a smartphone.

    Our Challenge
    Gaps across racial and socioeconomic groups

    Similar to internet connectivity, computer ownership in homes is not equally likely across socioeconomic and racial backgrounds for Louisville residents.

    Percentage of households with no computer, per racial groups:

    Breakdown of households with no computer, per labor force participation:

    Our Goal

    Get more computers into the homes that do not have one. We want to eliminate economic and racial disparities for computer ownership in Louisville by 2022.

    2017 Goal

    Distribute 500 reliable computers to families without a computer.

    What We Are Doing To Achieve Our Goals
    Working with Community Service clients to bring hot-spots and laptops into clients’ homes
    Looking for sustainable ways we can re-purpose used laptops from community partners
    Recommendations:
    • Encourage businesses to donate used devices to help bridge gap
    • Find partners to create computer refurbishment and repair clinics
    • Work with Government and Community Partners to get computers to in-need families
    Benchmark: Kansas City

    Kansas City, the first Google Fiber City, has an innovative hardware program called Connecting for Good. Formed in 2011, the program’s central project is a computer refurbishing program. It collects old PCs from the community, refurbishes them, and sells them for as low as $75 to low-income individuals.

How We're Doing It

We’ll update you periodically on progress we’re making towards the goals we’ve set in each of our focus areas. Go to news and updates for more.