OCTO Hatches Plan For Digital Unity


Some people just have connections – and it was through one such person that I found a copy of DC’s Digital Divide Strategy, which published last week. At a glance, it looks like just another civic document – an outline, budget talk, lots of acronyms and citations. Due to a growing interest in the digital divide issues, I printed out a copy to learn about DC’s plan-of-attack for improving digital literacy.

So here’s my disclaimer: If you’re a DCist, a government worker or techie, I’m sorry to bore you. But if you’re still reading, here are some digestable tidbits:

  • The Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) oversees all technology systems for the city’s government agencies. OCTO states that bridging the digital divide is one of core initiatives.
  • The top reasons that DC residents do not adopt computers and broadband Internet: lack of usability, lack of affordability of computers and the Internet, lack of perceived value and relevance of these resources to individuals’ daily lives.
  • Research shows that broadband adoption is below 40 percent in Wards 5, 7, and 8 (But nearly 100 percent in other wards).

OCTO has identified several resources to help fund and sustain their efforts to expand broadband access:

  • Free / existing resources: public libraries and rec centers (for free computer workstations)
  • OCTO’s citywide fiber-optic network (DC-NET)
  • OCTO’s citywide network of free wifi hotspots (including Eastern Market and the National Mall) (DC Free Wifi)
  • External funds: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, grants offered by the National Telecommunications Information Administration

OCTO explains that this strategy is “comprehensive” and will span several years. It makes no claim to be a “complete roadmap from the start.” Instead, the strategy is a realistic outline about what could be accomplished in the coming years. I appreciate their efforts to bridge the digital divide – to bring the underserved online.

I applaud OCTO for recognizing the benefits of broadband adoption: greater ability to apply for jobs (thus boosting the economy), e-learning opportunities, and telemedicine at reduced costs. In fact, broadband adoption allows DC’s citizens to take a more active role in the civic, cultural and legislation issues that affect the District of Columbia. (See: www.dc.gov).

What does it mean to have “meaningful access” to technology?

  • Access to a computer
  • Computer literacy
  • Broadband access
  • Understanding advantages of the Internet (low-cost medical care and drugs, e-learning, etc.)

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, so if you want to read the fine print check over at Gov20.

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About Meg Biallas

Thoughts From A DC Intern Turned DCist. A twenty-something goes beyond traditional tourism to achieve Washingtonian authenticity.
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