The Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion
Discussion which formed the beginnings of the Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion began in the fall of 2018 inspired by a Brookings Institution report on the strengths and weaknesses of the Sacramento Capital region. A series of community discussions occurred to organize around the mission of digital equity, with the Sacramento Public Library hosting the Sacramento Digital Inclusion Summit in January 2019. This led to the creation of the Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion, with more than 40 members, led by a Steering Committee comprised of the City of Sacramento, the Sacramento Public Library, Valley Vision and Social Ventures Partners. During 2019, the Coalition built collaborative relationships, conducted assessments of needs including through community engagement, and produced an initial report focused on increasing digital access, both to affordable Internet and devices, and digital literacy/skills. The City of Sacramento passed a resolution in October 2019 to launch National Digital Inclusion Week in the region.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 , the work of the Coalition became even more important and the need for a funding mechanism to drive forward momentum and staff this increasingly important body of work required an urgent solution. Valley Vision has been successful in securing short term funding to continue and expand this valuable work through the Morgan Family Foundation and Union Bank, on behalf of community partners and stakeholders.
Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion Steering Committee:
A woman at the North Sacramento workshop has been trying to learn Photoshop and photo editing skills. She wants to do digital photography, but has not had the correct learning opportunity. A staff member with Sacramento Employment Training Agency repeatedly stresses to her clients that résumés created on a smartphone are often inferior to those composed on a full PC. A resident of the Delta continues to run, to his dissatisfaction, his work email from an @frontier.com email address because he cannot figure out how to migrate his email from one service to another.
These instances, drawn from our workshops, illustrate how skills, hardware and connectivity inequities create digital divisions in the lives of Sacramento community members. The recommended actions proposed in this report seek to address issues like the ones described above, in an inclusive and comprehensive fashion.
A person experiencing homelessness in the Del Paso Heights area has his own phone and computer, but he is offline after 9 p.m. because the batteries for all his devices are dead by the late evening. A resident of the Delta is confounded how rural regions of Alaska have better connectivity than he does, so close to the most technologically advanced state’s capital. Children in the Oak Park area spend hundreds of hours online at the local library because that is where the connection to the internet, and therefore the rest of the world, is available to them. Nearly 25 percent of students at Sacramento City College are using mobile devices for homework.
Digital equity deserts exist within Sacramento County. They can be caused by issues like lack of power, lack of internet access or lack of meaningful scaffolds to skills, as described by workshop participants. These deserts are in some cases defined by geographic issues, and in others, follow a person around regardless of their location. True solutions to the issues of digital equity deserts consider the logistics of not only a particular geographic region, but also historical factors related to the particular populations that live in a given region.
A workshop participant said that his Hispanic parents have a cultural preference to physically working hard and learning traditional academic skills over digital learning. A digital skill instructor highlighted how learning digital skills is foundational to any professional task. A North Sacramento resident said that without proper motivation in sight, youths will not engage with any skill learning.
Digital Skills, and the learning opportunities they create, translate to all facets of life. The SCDI’s recommendations and the opportunities those recommendations create aim at bridging the digital divide, but also work to create meaningful learning and critical thinking opportunities for residents of our region. Critical thinking — analyzing information, combining disparate pieces of information to develop conclusions and breaking complex tasks down into discrete actions — is a digital skill. Activities that teach digital skills also teach this larger life, and employability, skill of critical thinking.