North Carolina Summit: A Regional Approach to Digital Inclusion

 Amber Petty, Senior Manager, and J'Tanya Adams, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director welcome attendees as they arrive at the Levine Center for the summit.

Amber Petty, Senior Manager, and J'Tanya Adams, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director welcome attendees as they arrive at the Levine Center for the summit.

On Wednesday, June 20th, ConnectHomeUSA held its first regional summit in Charlotte, North Carolina. The event was hosted by Digital Charlotte at Queens University, and was sponsored by Digital Charlotte, Woodforest National Bank, and EveryoneOn. Attendees included representatives from the seven ConnectHomeUSA communities in North Carolina along with several digital inclusion experts in the region, all of whom convened to address the digital divide and consider how best to bring the Internet to all of North Carolina.

 Attendees including ConnectHomeUSA communities and stakeholders alike dig in for our first speaker Secretary Boyette.

Attendees including ConnectHomeUSA communities and stakeholders alike dig in for our first speaker Secretary Boyette.

Guests were welcomed by Eric Boyette, the Secretary and Chief Information Officer of the North Carolina State Department of Information Technology, who leads statewide IT planning and operations. Secretary Boyette’s address highlighted the importance of broadband access and education, setting the tone for what would be a series of productive conversations on the significance of digital inclusion in a variety of public issues, including education and the workforce. These conversations took place in the form of panels such as “Community Reinvestment Act: Investment and Beyond,” which focused on how banks approach digital inclusion and how they've made an impact in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, and “Access to the Internet, Access to Education,” which focused on how educational institutions can be partners in digital inclusion. These panels gave attendees insight as to how they can navigate the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) requirements, and how ConnectHomeUSA and digital inclusion efforts have helped students’ performance.

Several organizations sent representatives to speak on the Summit’s panels, including Urban League, Eliminate the Digital Divide (E2D), the Department of Public Instruction, and the University of North Carolina’s School of Social Work’s Jordan Institute for Families. Speakers were responsible for answering several tough questions, including “as a community anchor institution, how has your organization worked to benefit the larger community, and how has digital inclusion been integrated into those efforts?” That being said, the speakers came fully prepared to address even the most difficult questions, with Charlotte-Mecklenberg Schools’ Kevin Poirer demonstrating how digital inclusion can be achieved as a result of internet access, digital literacy, and access to computer devices. This positive outlook framed the discussion on the panels, with Pat Millen of E2D on the “Tapping into the Product Pipeline: Finding Affordable Devices for your Residents” panel. stating that “everyone in North Carolina can have broadband; it’s just a matter of how we do it.”

The contributions of these speakers and many more made the event a resounding success. During the first panel of the day on devices, Amy Huffman of the Department of Information Technology shared with attendees that 20% of North Carolinians don't have a computer at home, 8% have a smartphone, and 12% have no device at all. These numbers highlight the critical need to close the digital divide quickly, something that can be done only with your help.

This post was authored by Audri Gill, Programs Intern, EveryoneOn