Digital Communities and the Second Anniversary of the National Broadband Plan

By Susan Hildreth
Director, IMLS

Photo of Susan HildrethThis week marks the second anniversary of the National Broadband Plan which set a roadmap for increasing rates of broadband adoption and use in the U.S. Since the plan was released, we have been working with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and the University of Washington Information School to engage hundreds of individuals and organizations in identifying barriers and opportunities for creating true “digital communities.”

We believe that U.S. libraries are playing an essential role. Beyond providing access they are helping to raise awareness about what individuals and communities gain when they are digitally connected.

We know from prior research that many people who could adopt broadband decide not to because they are not convinced that broadband will make a difference in their lives.

Libraries have become community technology hubs, serving every demographic, and for many individuals they are the onramp for technology use. We also believe that the library can be the onramp for community wide technology planning. The new policy resources we released this week, Building Digital Communities: Getting Started and Building Digital Communities: A Framework for Action will help community stakeholders, public and private sector, to set a vision and goals and identify action steps.

Most importantly these resources help communities focus on “why it matters,” and ask important questions such as: How would the health, employment outlook, civic life, and emergency preparedness of our community be different if we were to create a truly digitally-inclusive community and conversely, what is at risk without coordinated strategies?

Going forward we are working with WebJunction, the ICMA and Tech Soup to develop practical tools that will help communities convene conversations and plan for the future.

I hope that you will take a few moments to review these publications; they may inspire you to identify new partners and to see your role as a community anchor in a new way.




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